- New crash test criteria make small cars expensive
- Body development is reaching its limits
- Less than four stars are difficult to sell
- EuroNCAP requires pedestrian detection
- The end of all accidents is getting closer?
New crash test criteria make small cars expensive
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The improvement in crash safety through changes to the vehicle sheet metal is considered to be almost exhausted. The testing organization EuroNCAP therefore wants more security in its tests…Put electronics at the center.
Source: dpa / tok mut
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In the future, there will only be five stars if there is a brake assistant in the car, as is the case here with the VW Up, for which the technology is available as an extra.
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EuroNCAP also requires pedestrian detection, and Volvo can already offer it.
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But especially in the small class, additional prices for safety electronics are difficult to enforce. Suppliers such as Delphi (picture) are therefore looking for inexpensive solutions for brakes…assistants and traffic sign recognition.
EuroNCAP is the measure of security. But in the future, cars without high-tech extras such as onboard cameras and radar sensors will hardly have a chance of five stars. That will be expensive, especially for small cars.
F.Five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test are a good selling point. Anyone who puts security in the foreground reads carefully which model performed and how in the test. Over the years, the accident protection of new vehicles has continued to improve – and at the same time, the testing organization has repeatedly tightened its criteria.
The hurdles are to be raised again in the coming years. And with what is then required for five stars, the manufacturers of small and inexpensive cars in particular are likely to have problems. Because without high-tech assistants such as onboard cameras and radar sensors, it should no longer be possible to achieve the top rating in the future.
That shouldn’t be a problem for the Mercedes S-Class and most of its upper-class competitors. But the manufacturers of small and micro cars would have to upgrade vigorously. And the customer will have to dig deeper into their pockets – at least for the time being.
Body development is reaching its limits
The first tightening of the test criteria is due for the current year. In addition to more safety for the occupants, proper pedestrian protection and a basic set of electronic helpers, EuroNCAP will then also require traffic sign recognition from its five-star candidates.
With the help of a camera behind the windshield, the assistant reads the signs on the side of the road and warns the driver of speeding, for example. In extreme cases, he can also brake the car independently.
There is a reason for the increased focus on electronic assistants. "Passive safety in the form of crash-optimized bodies and increasingly extensive airbag systems is increasingly reaching its limits," explains Thomas Fischer, development manager for vehicle safety at the Wuppertal-based supplier Delphi. If the number of road deaths is to be further reduced, this can only be done with increasingly intelligent cars.
Less than four stars are difficult to sell
Initially, vehicles without traffic sign recognition are likely to receive five stars in the overall rating if they make up for the lack of an assistant with particularly good performance in other areas. But that will only apply for a transitional period, because the next tightening is due as early as 2014.
Then an automatic emergency brake assistant should be compulsory in order to achieve five stars in the crash test. First of all, according to EuroNCAP, the only has to intervene at low speeds in city traffic if a collision is unavoidable. Later also at country road speed – otherwise there will be no more five stars from 2015.
The EuroNCAP tests are not required by law. But a car with fewer than four celestial bodies has hardly any sales opportunities in Germany. Most manufacturers therefore develop their cars specifically based on the test criteria.
EuroNCAP requires pedestrian detection
EuroNCAP is also increasingly specifying the development goals: From 2016, the emergency brake assistant must also recognize crossing pedestrians – a tricky task that still poses problems for the developers due to the many different appearances of people. Currently only Volvo and Lexus have such systems on offer, as an extra, for a clearly four-digit surcharge.
But the development of the systems is not even the main problem: “From a purely technical point of view, the new requirements must be met,” says Thomas Fischer, “but the question is what is financially possible”. Because in the upper class and with premium manufacturers, the additional costs disappear in the high total. In smaller cars, however, the additional prices are much more difficult to achieve.
To remedy this, Delphi has already developed particularly compact and inexpensive video radar units. The module, which is only the size of a cell phone, is located behind the windshield on the rearview mirror and fulfills all the required functions with the appropriate software: the camera detects traffic signs, inanimate obstacles and passers-by, the radar also safeguards the results.
The end of all accidents is getting closer?
Fischer hopes for high quantities and therefore expects the technology to become significantly cheaper – the additional price per vehicle could then level off at a few 100 euros. Modern assistants in the small classes – if they are available at all – are currently significantly more expensive. VW, for example, offers a city emergency brake assistant in the Up small car, which was introduced at the end of 2011, and costs 590 euros as a package with other extras.
The developer even has a very courageous vision: "Emergency brake assist and traffic sign recognition are only an intermediate stage to the autonomous car," says Fischer. And that, he believes, could even make cars cheaper in the long term. Because if communication between the cars ensures that there are no more serious accidents and road deaths – then, according to Fischer, passive safety can be disarmed again.
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