ANCAP’s new vehicle safety protocols, explained

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 02 March 2020

How ANCAP’s new vehicle safety protocols will help keep you safe on the road.

From crumple zones to autonomous emergency braking to features that put pedestrian safety front of mind, the past 20 years have seen dramatic improvements in vehicle safety.

Take, for example, 2000’s Toyota Corolla Conquest Seca hatch, which when released had just a single airbag as its standout safety feature. Its 2020 equivalent, the Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport, has by comparison at least 18 standard safety features, including six airbags, antilock brakes, reversing camera, autonomous emergency braking, electronic stability control, lane-departure warning, road-sign recognition, pedestrian avoidance with braking control and more.


The increased focus on safety from manufacturers has largely been a result of pressure from our vehicle safety watchdog, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

ANCAP was founded in 1992 and has steadily pushed for better safety outcomes for road users through the vehicle crash safety ratings program, as well as lobbying government for more stringent safety regulations. Through the safety ratings, ANCAP regularly changes the protocols to include the latest advancements as part of the tests, which forces car companies to lift their game and include more safety features in their latest models.

Safety features have been treated as premium features by some manufacturers, which might only offer the latest tech in flagship models or variants, leaving high-volume entry-level models with inadequate safety equipment. It wasn’t so long ago that reversing cameras were only found on higher-end models – now they’re standard on a $15,000 Kia Picanto. Fewer OEMs are holding back important new safety features for pricier models these days, but some still do.

ANCAP also keeps an eye on the safety of our vehicle fleet overall. It hammered home the disparity between the safety of older and newer models a couple of years ago by crashing a 1998 Toyota Corolla into a 2015 Toyota Corolla. The frontal-offset test replicated a head-on crash at 64kmh and the video of the crash is shocking, with the older car all but destroyed. 

According to ANCAP, the 1998 Corolla sustained “catastrophic structural failure with dummy readings showing an extremely high risk of serious head, chest and leg injury to the driver”. It achieved a score of 0.40 out of 16 which equates to zero stars. The 2015 model performed “very well with a five-star level of protection offered, scoring 12.93 out of 16 points”.

As safety features become more sophisticated, ANCAP adjusts its rating requirements to ensure its top five-star rating is awarded to the most deserving vehicles.

It brought in minimum requirements for its frontal-offset and side-impact tests to achieve a five-star rating in 2001, while in 2003 it ushered in minimum head-protection scores. In 2008, ANCAP mandated electronic stability control (ESC) as standard for all five-star-rated cars, well before government regulation made it compulsory. 

Common test and rating protocols were adopted by ANCAP and Euro NCAP in 2018 and the goalposts are shifting again for 2020. New protocols roll out this year that will likely result in an even sharper focus on safety from manufacturers.

So, what are the changes?

  • The number of physical crash tests has gone up from five to eight, and now include two far-side impact tests. They will assess intrusion injury risk to occupants seated on the opposite side to where the impact occurred, as well as occupant-to-occupant interaction in the side-impact and oblique-pole tests. ANCAP says this will encourage manufacturers to consider measures to reduce the risk of injury in these types of crashes with features such as centre airbags.
  • The speed of the frontal-offset test has dropped from 64kmh to 50kmh, but the severity of the crash will increase with the introduction of a “moving deformable barrier trolley” instead of a static barrier. Cars with low vehicle-to-vehicle compatibility will be penalised.
  • Side-impact test speed will rise from 50kmh to 60kmh and the trolley mass will increase from 1300 kilograms to 1400 kilograms.
  • More autonomous emergency braking (AEB) tests will be added from 2020, focusing on the system’s ability to avoid pedestrians when reversing and car-to-car collisions at intersections. 
  • Automatic emergency steering tests will determine a car’s ability to steer itself into a clear lane if the AEB system doesn’t provide the appropriate assistance.
  • Systems that monitor driver fatigue and alertness will also be assessed.
  • 2020 will mark the rollout of protocols relating to post-crash response, which will help first responders. Car companies will be required to provide standardised vehicle safety information and rescue cards that pinpoint the location of vehicle hazards such as fuel lines, high-voltage batteries, airbag inflators, seatbelt pre-tensioner inflators and gas struts.

Each vehicle tested from this year will need to score sufficient points on each of these assessment areas to achieve a maximum five-star crash safety rating. Even more stringent changes to protocols are expected in 2022, which should keep global car manufacturers on their toes. 

Road safety explained: what RACV is doing to keep you safe on Victorian roads.