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How ANCAP is making sure the next new car, SUV, ute or van you buy is much safer than the last

Potentially lifesaving AEB systems are set to become mandatory in Australia.

New cars sold in Australia will take one step closer to autonomy – and become safer – with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) set to become a legal requirement from 2022.

From that date, it’s expected that AEB will be required on all new vehicles entering the market under the Australian Design Rules (ADRs), and then mandated on all models (so retrofitted to models on sale without it) by 2024. The move has been proposed by the Australian government’s Regulation Impact Statement, which is part of the ADR approval process.

It’s a move unsurprisingly welcomed by safety advocacy ANCAP, which has made AEB effectively a requirement for a car to achieve its maximum five-star rating since 2015. AEB uses a series of sensors to detect the closing speed between your car and an object ahead of it and automatically apply the brakes to avoid, or at least mitigate, a collision.

According to ANCAP, the use of AEB has been found to reduce police-reported crashes by 55 per cent and nose-to-tail accidents by 40 per cent.

AEB has become more common across all segments but remains well-short of universal fitment, especially in smaller cars which are more price sensitive.

“Our latest analysis of new light-vehicle sales shows voluntary fitment of AEB has increased to 66 per cent, with 186 new light-vehicle models equipped with this life-saving technology as standard,” explained Rhianne Robson, ANCAP’s director of communications and advocacy.

“A key role for ANCAP is to build consumer awareness, confidence and demand for vehicle safety features and technologies, and these fitment figures demonstrate the automotive industry’s commitment to satisfying that demand.”

From 2022 autonomous emergency braking (AEB) will be required on all new vehicles entering the market. From 2022 autonomous emergency braking (AEB) will be required on all new vehicles entering the market.

The introduction of AEB as an ADR requirement is a win for ANCAP’s push for safer cars, but it isn’t the only time this scenario has occurred. With carmakers developing new safety technologies at a high rate, it has become a challenge for lawmakers to keep up with what should be required and what should be optional for the car companies to fit.

Here are some other recent examples of significant safety breakthroughs that have become ADR requirements, thus forcing all car companies to fit them.

Electronic Stability Control

While it’s a common acronym you find in the alphabet soup of a modern list of safety equipment (AEB, RCTA, LKA, LDW, BA, etc), electronic stability control (ESC) was still optional until earlier this decade.

First introduced in the mid-1990s by Mercedes-Benz, the idea of using the car’s computer to help reduce skidding was quickly adopted across a variety of brands. By 2008, ANCAP had made fitting ESC a requirement to score its five-star rating, which resulted in a much more widespread adoption of the technology by carmakers.

Then in 2013, the government made ESC a requirement in the ADRs for all new vehicles and every model by 2015.

Curtain airbags

Airbags have been in the news a lot in recent years thanks to the Takata recall, but while that’s been bad news, the reality is these devices have saved countless lives since they first arrived 40 years ago in the 1980 Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

But while front airbags (those mounted in the steering wheel and passenger-side dashboard) have been common for decades, carmakers developed new airbags to better protect occupants, such as side and rear versions.

Then came the ‘curtain airbag’ that typically deploys from the roof to cover the front and rear glass to protect occupants' heads from making contact. In 2001, ANCAP introduced the side-impact pole test that put greater emphasis on head protection, which once again put pressure on carmakers to add curtain airbags in order to achieve the highest possible rating.

Several brands resisted the added cost of making curtain airbags standard on all models for many years until it was made necessary by the introduction of new ADRs in 2015.