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Connected Driving 4 min read

Filling the NCAP gap: the international drive to eliminate fatal crashes — for good

Cars and buses navigate heavy traffic on a busy road.

The European NCAP rating system has been updated — and it is part of a global drive to reduce fatal vehicle crashes to zero. HERE360 explores the role of technology in this safety push.

Worldwide, the number of deaths from road crashes every year is 1.3 million people.

In 2020 alone, road crashes killed about 18,800 people in European Union (EU) countries and injured more than 500,000.

It might have once seemed as though this is something we just have to accept, but countries and cities are setting ambitious targets to eliminate fatal crashes. The concept of Vision Zero began in Sweden in the 1990s but has been adopted globally.

It has gradually superseded previous goals of merely reducing the number of crashes by a certain deadline. By 2050, the EU target is to bring the number of road crash deaths down to zero. Australia is among those who have also set a 2050 target. Meanwhile, the United Nations wants to see them halved by 2030.

How will they do it?

Human error is involved in about 95% of accidents, according to the EU. Safer roads and education campaigns about measures people can take such as wearing helmets on motorbikes can help.

However, technology has a big role to play in tackling mistakes that people make — and this is the approach authorities are backing to meet their goals.

While technologies such as AI have been touted as a way forward, that approach was recently dismissed as “too much hype" by David Ward, Executive President of the UK's Towards Zero Foundation (TZF), speaking to the New York Times.

Instead, he said, tools that are already widely available such as Intelligent Speed Assistance can make all the difference.

New Car Assessment Programs (NCAP) are independent schemes valued by governments that can be brought to bear to make driving safer. Their rating systems, of between one and five stars, while voluntary, show consumers how well a car performs in safety tests.

A mother driving a car with her daughter in the back seat.

Europe's NCAP has updated its requirements for Safety Assist Systems, with additions for local hazards and road features as well as high update frequencies in Speed Assistance Systems. This could be copied elsewhere where authorities are looking for ways to reach Vision Zero targets.

In some cases, automakers may decide to introduce these tools in all territories since they are needed for a high NCAP rating in Europe.

“In the past, there were functionalities in vehicles to minimize the effects of a crash once it has happened. What we're seeing now is a trend to avoid the crash before it happens, by providing information to the driver, so that the driver is aware of what's around them. And they can then make the decision to slow down, for instance, based on the fact that there's a sharp curve, or a roundabout ahead," Sjoerd Spargaaren, HERE Product Marketing Manager of Automated Driving told HERE360.


Safety features inside the car warning drivers of changes ahead can help avoid crashes.


“We offer a package to help car manufacturers address updated NCAP protocols and improve their safety assist functionality," Spargaaren added.

Part of that offering is the HERE Road Alerts service, for instance. It uses probe data, sensor data, map content and multiple other sources, including government road authorities, community sourcing and feedback from sensors in vehicles to create a comprehensive picture of what is happening on the roads. This product updates every 15 seconds and provides alerts on slippery roads, broken-down vehicles and other many other hazard-related events.

NCAP ratings might not be the only tool in the box, but they are likely to be a critical one in the international drive to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians from road crashes in the future.


Beth McLoughlin 2023

Beth McLoughlin

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