New cars are reaching levels of safety never seen before – as figures show the 12 month national average for road deaths has hit a five-year low.
However, one of the key life-saving technologies helping drive down deaths on our roads is still not mandated in Australia.
While the road toll in the first nine months of this year is up 5.8 per cent compared to the same period in 2018, the 12 months to September figure represents a decline of 1.3 per cent year-on-year and is the lowest tally since 2014.
While it's difficult to measure the influence safer cars have had on the road toll – versus other factors such as better roads and stricter enforcement – data compiled by independent crash test authority, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), shows 92 per cent of new vehicles sold now have a five-star safety rating.
Cars with an “acceptable” four-star rating represented just three per cent of new car sales and vehicles with a “poor” three-star rating or lower accounted for just one per cent of sales.
The remaining four per cent were “unrated” models yet to be tested or unlikely to be assessed due to their low sales volumes, such as exotic sports cars and super-luxury cars.
The other big breakthrough: this year, for the first time, more than half of all new passenger vehicles sold are equipped with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard (pictured above on a HiLux being tested against an inflatable car) – even though the Australian government is yet to make it mandatory.
The crash test authority drilled into detailed sales data in two separate studies to determine which cars had a five-star safety rating and which ones were equipped with AEB as standard.
While nine out of every 10 new cars sold now have top safety marks, the fitment of advanced technology – which slams on the brakes if the driver isn’t paying attention – showed the biggest gains.
Just three years ago only three per cent of all new vehicles had AEB as standard, but the number has since climbed to 54 per cent as of July 2019.
However, the proportion of vehicles on the road with AEB is in fact higher than this because many private buyers – and government and business fleets – select it as an option when it’s available.
According to ANCAP, the advanced safety tech is now available on 75 per cent of all new passenger vehicles – and every vehicle inside the Top 10 offers some form of AEB either as standard equipment or as an option.
Of the 100 top-selling vehicles the ANCAP report found:
- 60 included AEB as standard equipment (representing 54 per cent of vehicles sold);
- 10 included AEB only on the more expensive versions and not available on the base model (representing 9 per cent of vehicles sold);
- 9 offered AEB as an option on the base model (representing 13 per cent of vehicles sold);
- 21 were not available with any form of AEB (representing 13 per cent of vehicle sales).
"This is a significant milestone for the industry and the marketplace," said ANCAP Chief Executive, James Goodwin. "In the past month alone, over 40,000 new vehicles entered the fleet with this important collision avoidance technology."
However, Mr Goodwin said more needs to be done to make AEB and other advanced safety technology a standard fitment rather than an option.
“A key role for ANCAP is to educate the community on the benefits of AEB, and in parallel, encourage vehicle brands to include it as standard across model ranges and price points,” said Mr Goodwin.
“Some of our most popular and most affordable models – the Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3 and Kia Cerato – and the highest selling light commercial vehicles – the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux – all include AEB as standard.”
ANCAP says market leader Toyota has been a large contributor to the rapid rollout of AEB due to its sheer volume of sales.
More than 89 per cent of Toyota’s sales mix are of vehicles equipped with AEB, including 97 per cent of its passenger car sales and 85 per cent of its SUVs, utes and vans.
A report by ANCAP’s European partner EuroNCAP said of the continued rollout of AEB: “Technology is evolving quickly and more and more of the driving function is being handed to the vehicle.
"Given that around 90 percent of road accidents are attributable to driver error, the potential safety benefits of increased automation are clear assuming that the automation is at least as competent as the driver in complex traffic situations."
While ANCAP and its European affiliate receive government funding they are not a government body and have no power to veto sales of new vehicles or mandate minimum safety standards.
However, they aim to influence car companies by awarding higher safety scores to vehicles equipped with the latest safety tech.
Here is the full list of the Top 100 cars with AEB standard, optional or not available (July 2019):