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ANCAP passes 30-year milestone

From rudimentary to highly complex, ANCAP tests credited with savings thousands of lives

24 Nov 2023

AUSTRALIA’S go-to car safety rating system, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is 30 years old and is credited with being instrumental in saving thousands of lives.


It had small beginnings with a leg-up in April 1993 from TV show A Current Affair when presenter Mike Willesee introduced a report on the crash safety performance of popular new cars from the era.


Mr Willesee and most of his viewers would not have realised it was the start of something momentous in the road safety space.


The damning TV report was based on information collated in a New Car Assessment Program, a joint venture between some government road safety authorities and all the national motoring organisations.


Cars were assessed over three years of crash testing that provided for the first time to the public an objective assessment of how nine of the most popular family sedans of the time performed in a head-on collision. All but one rated poorly.


From this, in the early 1990s when most cars didn’t have a single airbag, the independent Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has developed into a formidable road safety advocate that is the priority measure used to determine the safety of new cars.


The organisation this week celebrates 30 years safety advocacy that has seen a dramatic change to car design, construction and technology all aimed at preventing crashes and reducing injury and fatalities from motor vehicle crashes.


ANCAP was the second new car assessment body established globally after the United States beating EuroNCAP, with which it now collaborates, by a couple of years with some jurisdictions (India) only recently initiating similar car safety assessment programs.


ANCAP’s star ratings have become a trusted reference on vehicle safety among Australian and New Zealand new car buyers who have embraced the system when purchasing a car while vehicle manufacturers and fleet operators use it to promote the safety credentials of their products and to protect staff respectively.


“When ANCAP began, its ultimate aim was to make safety as important to new car buyers as engine size, styling and comfort,” said ANCAP chair, Andy Cornish.


“Today, consumers and fleet purchasers expect the highest levels of safety, and vehicle manufacturers work hard to not only satisfy the market but lead the development of new safety features and technologies.


“I am extremely proud to be just a small part of such a committed organisation, and as we mark this 30-year milestone, it is important we recognise all who have contributed to its success in driving safety improvements, and acknowledge the lives saved and serious injuries avoided through their contributions.”


Speaking as a person who has lost a loved one to a car crash, ANCAP chief executive officer, Carla Hoorweg said, “Until ANCAP’s establishment in the early 1990s, there was no way for car buyers to see how well, or not, their vehicle performed in a crash, nor any incentive for manufacturers to fast-track safety improvements in their models”.


“Today, ANCAP safety ratings are a valuable consumer tool and one of the most sought-after aspects when purchasing a new vehicle.”


ANCAP conducted its first vehicle assessment in 1993, a time when most cars were fitted with minimal safety features, with just one test – a full width frontal crash conducted at 56km/h.


Scroll forward to 2023 and in stark contrast, vehicles rated by ANCAP today are subject to seven destructive crash tests covering a range of crash scenarios, as well as a suite of collision avoidance performance tests comprising hundreds of varying daytime and night-time scenarios involving other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.


“In ANCAP’s 30 years, countless new tests and assessments have been introduced, and existing ones enhanced. Minimum safety requirements have increased across all star rating levels, and more sophisticated testing, assessment and rating methods developed,” said Ms Hoorweg.


“As we drive around our suburban streets, cities, highways and regional roads, a quick glance at today’s vehicle fleet reveals the vast improvements realised as a result of ANCAP’s influence. And the benefactors… all Australian and New Zealand road users.”


You can take a look back through the years to see how ANCAP safety ratings have progressed here.


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