NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) Overview and Trends

Global comparison of collision safety performance testing



 Automotive safety regulations went into effect in the U.S. for 1968 model year vehicles. In the beginning, automakers were reluctant to adopt safety features above the minimum legal requirement because they believed that "safety does not sell".

 The NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) was first introduced by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation) for 1979 model year vehicles. The goal of providing consumer information on the crashworthiness ratings for new vehicles was to make automakers compete for improved safety performance beyond the legal requirements by demonstrating superior crash performance under increasingly stringent conditions. Even while the laws were still in the proposal stage, crash testing was being conducted at speeds of 5 mph over the required crash test speed of 30 mph. Global automakers were shocked by the results at a press conference held in the courtyard of the NHTSA facility where they displayed those vehicles with poor safety evaluation results.

 NCAP were introduced in Australia (ANCAP) in 1992, Japan (JNCAP) in 1995, and Europe (Euro NCAP) in 1997. NCAP began to spread globally, but it took more than 15 years for automakers to compete for the NCAP safety performance ratings, and today carmakers emphasize that it is essential for them to receive good NCAP safety ratings. With the expansion of motorization in emerging countries, in 2011 the Global NCAP organization was created with the aim of spreading NCAP standards globally.

 Currently, NCAP are established in eight major countries and regions to evaluate occupant protection performance during vehicle collisions and in recent years NCAP have added preventive safety performance assessments for technologies such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB). This report was compiled in collaboration with Mr. Kazuo Higuchi, and mainly focuses on the evaluation of collision safety performance, as well as topics such as how each country has introduced safety performance assessments and the differences in the evaluation methods of each country.


Global collision safety performance assessment testing and collision speeds

Program Frontal Collision Side Collision Rear Collision
Full-lap collision Offset collision MDB collision ** Pole collision
U.S. US NCAP 56km/h - 62km/h 32km/h -
IIHS* - 64km/h 50km/h - -
Europe Euro NCAP 50km/h 64km/h 50km/h 32km/h 24.5km/h
Japan JNCAP 55km/h 64km/h 55km/h - 20km/h
Australia ANCAP - 64km/h 50km/h 29km/h -
Korea KNCAP 56km/h 64km/h 55km/h 32km/h 16km/h
China CNCAP 50km/h 64km/h 50km/h - -
Latin America Latin NCAP - 64km/h - - -
ASEAN ASEAN NCAP - 64km/h - - -

* In the U.S., safety assessments are conducted by the US NCAP as well as the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety American Road Safety Association). The IIHS implements two types of offset collisions, one at an offset of 40% and the other at an offset of 25%.
** MDB (Moving Deformable Barrier) collision
Source: Created from test evaluation criteria for both NCAP and IIHS


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Evaluation Criteria: Comprehensive evaluation of safety equipment mainly focuses on occupant protection performance

 Evaluation criteria comprehensively assesses mainly the occupant protection performance during collision testing while making recommendations concerning the safety equipment used to ensure also the protection of child passengers and pedestrian protection.

 Collision occupant protection performance is evaluated under front collision, side collision, rear collision, and rollover conditions.

Frontal collision occupant protection

 Frontal collisions are the most common type of crash resulting in fatalities, many of these are offset collisions. To achieve good occupant protection performance results with offset collision testing it is necessary to reduce deformation of the passenger cabin by reinforcing the vehicle’s structure. Since the 1990s when offset collision testing became common among NCAP, the structural integrity of vehicles has steadily improved. As a result, it became necessary to improve the occupant protection performance of devices such as seatbelts and airbags to ensure adequate occupant protection in situations where impact is absorbed to the side of the vehicle’s body during an offset collision. In addition it became necessary to improve occupant protection during full-lap collisions where impact is absorbed across the full width of the vehicle, which dramatically increases the deceleration rate of the vehicle interior, making it extremely difficult to ensure adequate occupant protection.

 In general, two types of collision performance safety tests are performed, the full-lap collision test and the offset collision test; used in combination, it is possible to improve both the crashworthiness of a vehicle as well as to improve the performance of occupant protection devices.

オフセット衝突 (JNCAP資料) フルラップ衝突 (NHTSA    NCAP report資料)
Offset collision
(Source: JNCAP)
Full-lap collision
(Source: NHTSA NCAP report)

Side collision occupant protection

 Among the passenger injuries that occur in automobile collisions, side collisions cause the greatest number of fatalities next to frontal collisions. There are two types of side collision test methods. The first is the MDB (Moving Deformable Barrier) collision test that simulates a collision between two vehicles, and the second is the side pole collision (Pole Side Impact) test that simulates when a vehicle slides sideways and collides into an immovable object such as a tree, where another vehicle is not involved. Also, there is an MDB* collision test used to simulate more severe collisions, such as when a standard-size passenger car collides with a larger vehicle such as an SUV.

*MDB (Moving Deformable Barrier) crash test trolley

Side MDB collision
(Source: NHTSA NCAP report)

Rear collision (rear-end collision)

 There are fewer fatalities associated with rear-end collisions, but insurance companies have historically considered these collisions to be an issue because the medical expenses associated with whiplash in rear-end collisions have been significant. Unlike frontal and side collision testing conducted using an actual vehicle, rear collision performance is evaluated using sled testing* and head restraint geometry (the distance between the height of the head restraint and the back of the head) where dynamic performance is evaluated using a dummy is the seated position on a test sled.

 *Sled testing: A crash test method used to test collision performance equivalent to vehicle-level testing by crashing a test sled equipped with a dummy and components such as seats and a steering wheel.



 Unlike other crash test methods, test criteria to evaluate a car’s ability to support itself in a dynamic impact have not been established, so roll-over tests are used to evaluate rollover performance and roof strength (by measuring the height of the center of gravity and the geometric relationship of the tread and vehicle stability in emergency collision avoidance situations).


Child protection performance

 Actual vehicle collision or sled testing is used to evaluate the protection performance of the child seats recommended by automakers during front and side collision test scenarios. Child protection performance is measured using a combination of dynamic tests to evaluate the performance of a child seat and static tests to evaluate the performance of the child seat attachment to a vehicle.


Pedestrian protection performance

 Pedestrian protection performance testing involves evaluation of the shock absorbed by a pedestrian when colliding against the front of a vehicle as well as dynamic performance testing to prevent pedestrian collisions.



 To promote the development of advanced safety technologies, which are likely to greatly improve automotive safety, many NCAPs are adopting additional evaluation guidelines for advanced safety systems. Some of the evaluations that already have been adopted include those for Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), seatbelt reminder, lane support system (LSS), speed limiter (SAS: Speed Assist System), and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

Occupant protection collision testing: Comparison of NCAP by region

Full Lap frontal collision

 The collision speed used for full lap frontal collision testing is 56km/h for US NCAP and KNCAP standards, 55km/h for JNCAP, and 50km/h for Euro NCAP and C-NCAP standards.

 Hybrid III* crash dummies are used for full-lap frontal collision testing, but there are differences among the seating criteria by NCAP as the front seat criteria for Euro NCAP and Korea NCAP stipulate that a 5% female be used in both of the front seats, while the US NCAP stipulates that a 5% female be used only for the front passenger seat, and the Euro NCAP and China NCAP stipulate that a 5% female and child dummies be used for the rear seats.

 * Hybrid III: A crash dummy developed by GM that has been designated for use by US regulations since the 1980s. There is a family of crash dummies including those for an average adult male (50%), a petite woman (5%), and children (6 years old, 3 years old), used when simulating frontal collisions where the passengers are not wearing seatbelts in a vehicle equipped with airbags. The percentage (%) denotes the percentile of a dummy’s physique and classified in ascending order (small to large).

(Source: Created based on NCAP and other materials)

Offset frontal collision

 All NCAP offset frontal collision tests are performed at a collision speed of 64km/h and at an offset of 40% except for the IIHS Narrow Offset test. Because the impact is on the driver's side, the JNCAP and ASEAN NCAP test standards regulate that crash testing occurs to the right hand side for right-hand drive vehicles.

 All front seat dummies are Hybrid III 50% male dummies, but JNCAP and IIHS criteria stipulate that they are required only for the driver's seat, while all other NCAP requires the dummies to be seated in both front seats. For the rear seats, JNCAP and CNCAP stipulate 5% female dummies be used, while Euro NCAP, KNCAP, ASEAN NCAP, and Latin NCAP stipulate that a child dummy (P dummy, Q dummy)* be used.

 *P dummy: A series of child dummies developed to meet European regulations, the number behind the P represents the age of the child. The Q dummy series is considered to more closely simulate humans in terms of its biomechanical and anthropometric characteristics.

(Source: Created based on NCAP, IIHS and other materials)

Side MDB collision

 The collision angle of all NCAP for side MDB collision testing is 90 degrees except for the US NCAP, which stipulates a 27 degree oblique angle. The collision speed is 55km/h for JNCAP and KNCAP, 62km/h for US NCAP (55km/h in the case of a 90-degree angle), and the other NCAP use 50km/h.

 The mass of the trolley used in the Moving Deformable Barrier (MDB) crash test is 1,365 kg for US NCAP passenger cars, while IIHS stipulates a 1,500 kg trolley be used to simulate taller and heavier SUVs, and from 2015 the revised criteria for Euro NCAP and KNCAP has been 1,300 kg for passenger cars. Other NCAPs use the 950 kg criteria for passenger cars that Euro NCAP had been using until 2014 prior to their revision.

 Both the Euro NCAP and KNCAP have started to use the new World SID* for front seat testing, but IIHS uses Euro SID-II*** (US revised type) or SID-IIs**. For the rear seat, the US NCAP, IIHS and C-NCAP all use a SID-II dummy, while Euro NCAP criteria seats a child dummy.

 * World SID: The latest generation side impact dummy (SID) jointly developed by the U.S. and Europe.
 ** SID-IIs: An improved version of the SID dummy for initial side impact detection; the S at the end represents a small female.
 *** Euro SID-II: An improved version of the Euro SID dummy for initial side impact detection, so that it can also be used to meet U.S. test criteria (oblique data channels).

(Source: Created based on NCAP, IIHS and other materials)

Side pole collision

 Side pole collision performance testing is conducted only by US NCAP, Euro NCAP, KNCAP and ANCAP. This test is based on the US method which is carried out at an oblique angle of 75 degrees and at an impact speed of 32km/h. Other NCAP specify an impact speed of 29km/h and a collision angle of 90 degrees. From 2015, Euro NCAP and KNCAP changed their requirements to 75 degrees and 32km/h, the same as that of the US NCAP.

 The US NCAP uses a SID-IIs dummy, ANCAP uses the Euro SID-II, and Euro NCAP and KNCAP use the World SID.

(Source: Created based on NCAP and other materials)

Rear collision (rear-end collision)

 IIHS measures the distance between the height of the head restraint and the back of the occupant’s head (back set), considered appropriate for the finite element models of dummies, and evaluates rear collision performance by conducting dynamic sled testing (10 mile/hr impact change) using a seated BioRID-II*.

 In addition, only Euro NCAP, JNCAP, and KNCAP are evaluating rear impact protection performance. All of these NCAP also use BioRID-II dummies, but the impact level (speed change) used for sled testing is different with Euro NCAP = 24.5km/h, JNCAP = 20 km/h, and KNCAP = 16km/h.

 * BioRID-II: A rear impact dummy that is more practical to use to evaluate rear collision performance because the BioRID rear impact dummy features a flexible spinal column that simulates the phenomenon of whiplash during a rear collision.


Pedestrian protection

 The patterns of pedestrian collision are so diverse that it is extremely difficult to replicate using actual vehicle collision evaluations. The first method used to evaluate pedestrian protection performance was used by the Euro NCAP for measuring the impact absorbed by the dummy’s headform when struck by the wide area on the hood of a car; this method is also being used by the JNCAP, ANCAP, KNCAP, and Latin NCAP.

 Initially pedestrian protection performance evaluations were conducted only for head injury using headforms, but tests using legforms to evaluate leg injuries have since been added. The Euro NCAP has also started to evaluate testing for the prevention of pedestrian collisions using technologies such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

Outline and characteristics of NCAP comprehensive rating systems in the U.S., Europe and Japan


 US NCAP collision safety assessments are currently characterized by test criteria designed for adult vehicle occupants. For child occupants, although evaluations using actual vehicle collisions have been conducted for many years without yielding viable test methods to evaluate collision safety for children, the only tests conducted are those to evaluate the ease of use of a child seat. In addition, the NCAP has considered but has not yet introduced evaluations for rear seat passengers, the elderly, and pedestrian protection.

 As a comprehensive crashworthiness rating for new vehicles, the US NCAP publishes safety test evaluation results using their 5-Star Safety Rating system. Currently, most vehicles have earned a five star rating, so it remains difficult to provide information to help consumers make informed safety choices when buying new vehicles.

 The US NCAP rating system calculation method takes the injury probability / rollover probability and the relative risk score calculated from the values measured during crash testing to derive the total VSS (vehicle safety score).

 Regarding advanced technologies, currently only the US NCAP publishes the status of systems that meet the predetermined criteria. Items recently added to the recommended safety equipment list are rearview camera systems (for 2013 model year vehicles) and autonomous emergency braking (for 2018 model year vehicles). Electronic Stability Control (ESC) was deleted from the recommended list (for 2014 model year vehicles).

  NHTSA has proposed revisions to the NCAP twice, in 2013 and 2015, both times soliciting public comment on the proposed revisions. The proposals recommended various revisions such as the introduction of the offset frontal collision safety performance test, introduction of the THOR-50M crash dummy for frontal collision testing (both the D and P seats* in the frontal oblique test, and just the D seat in the full-lap frontal collision test), introduction of rear seat occupant protection performance in the full-lap frontal collision evaluation (5F hybrid Ⅲ), introduction of the World SID-50M dummy for side collision programs, introduction of new injury criteria with the advent of more advanced crash dummies, introduction of the collision avoidance rating, and the introduction of the pedestrian protection performance evaluation.

 *D and P seats: D = Driver's seat, P = Passenger seat

(Source: Created based on US NCAP and other materials)


 IIHS began publishing crashworthiness ratings based on offset collision results for 1994 model year vehicles; afterwards, implementing various changes and additions to their evaluations based on the accident conditions being seen in the market. For example, IIHS has actively added side crash tests using an MDB (Moving Deformable Barrier crash test trolley) to simulate an SUV.

 In 2013, IIHS announced the start of their collision avoidance system rating, in addition to their five collision safety evaluation categories for offset frontal collision, side MDB collision, rear collision, and roof strength. The rating for frontal collision avoidance is not rated using the four stages (Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor) used for the other evaluation categories, but evaluates frontal collision avoidance using the three grades of Superior, Advanced, or Basic. Also, IIHS has added an evaluation category for headlight performance at the front corner of a vehicle, and intends to add criteria for the evaluation of movable headlights.

 Similar to other NCAPs, IIHS does not conduct comprehensive vehicle-level safety ratings. Instead, IIHS promotes safety improvements by awarding vehicles with Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus safety ratings depending on how well a vehicle performs in each of their safety evaluation categories. To receive a Top Safety Pick Plus certification rating, IIHS requires “Good” evaluation results for the frontal 40% ODB (Offset Deformable Barrier), side MDB, rear crash protection, and roof strength collision tests, and the frontal 25% ODB crash test, as well as a minimum rating of “Marginal” for collision avoidance system evaluations.

 Regarding collision safety performance, the evaluation standard of IIHS is unique in that it evaluates not only the injury sustained by a test dummy, but also emphasizes a vehicle’s structural changes as well as dummy restraint and behavior. In the U.S., it is essential for automakers to obtain good results in IIHS's small overlap frontal crash tests, implemented since 2012, as a result of an increasing number of injuries with passengers wearing seat belts in vehicles equipped with airbags.

(Source: Created based on IIHS and other materials)


  Unlike the U.S., the Euro NCAP evaluates not only adult occupant protection but also child occupant protection, pedestrian protection, and also actively evaluates safety assistance systems.

 The most outstanding characteristic of the Euro NCAP is that they update the contents of their program and evaluations every year. The table below shows the Euro NCAP evaluation system, with the inclusion of full-lap frontal collision evaluations included from the beginning, the addition of rear collision performance evaluations for the rear seats, and the addition of advanced driving-assistance system evaluations including autonomous emergency braking (at low and medium to high speeds), lane keeping assistance systems, and the introduction of Flex-PLI* used in pedestrian protection performance evaluations.

 *Flex-PLI (Flexible Pedestrian Legform Impactor): A new test specification for crash test dummies used to evaluate pedestrian protection performance, which is supposed to more accurately simulate leg injury by using a deforming legform opposed to conventional legforms that do not deform.

Evaluation of autonomous braking with pedestrian detection feature
(Source: Latin NCAP)


 In addition, the table also shows revisions for the child dummy used (Q1.5, Q3 -> Q6, Q10), adoption of the World SID crash dummy for side collision performance programs, evaluation of autonomous braking with a pedestrian detection feature (see photo), etc. The Euro NCAP is considered a revolutionary program because in the near future it plans to adopt measures such as the introduction of the advanced crash dummy THOR* for frontal collision evaluations and the adoption of moving deformable barrier (MDB) offset collision evaluations.

  • THOR: The newest version of crash dummies used for frontal collision performance evaluations, under development since the early 1990s, which is capable of simulating the behavior and the injuries sustained to a person wearing a seatbelt. It is currently in the final stage of development.


(Source: Created based on Euro NCAP and other materials)


 JNCAP is conducting pedestrian protection performance evaluations in addition to their four collision tests that include frontal full-lap collision, frontal offset, side MDB collision, and rear collision, and its rating system awards points for vehicles equipped with seat belt reminders.

 In recent years, JNCAP has been introducing evaluations for various driver-assistance systems. Specifically, it started evaluating low-speed Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) performance evaluations from 2014, vehicle peripheral vision information systems from 2015, and from 2016 evaluations for automatic braking with pedestrian detection, LKA (Lane Keeping Assist), and nighttime pedestrian alarm systems.

(Source: Created based on JNCAP and other materials)

Recent NCAP trends

Standardization of evaluation criteria among NCAP

 Worldwide the number of countries and regions adopting NCAP standards is increasing. As a result, because the content of the safety standards for each NCAP differs, it is becoming increasingly difficult for automakers to satisfy the requirements of all NCAPs because of the extremely high costs associated with the number of crash tests that must be conducted. Other than those crash tests required by law, for example, to conduct only an NCAP test to evaluation adult occupant protection performance, dozens of test vehicles per model are required. In the case of a full model change, it is difficult to conduct these many crash tests using prototype cars, so it is currently necessary to establish test criteria that can satisfy as many NCAP standards as possible with a single crash test.

 As a result, automakers are hoping to standardize the evaluation methods among NCAP. The purpose of Global NCAP's activities includes facilitating cooperation among NCAP programs, but at the moment there is no concrete action taking place to resolve the differences among the plans of each program.


Trend to add advanced safety technologies to NCAP standards

 A recent trend in each NCAP region is the progress being made to introduce advanced safety technologies as subjects to be evaluated. As a result of the implementation of regulations by the US NCAP mandating that all new vehicles be equipped with ESC, the usage of rear view cameras was first adopted in the U.S. after conducting of studies to consider the addition of new technologies. Since then, forward collision warning (FCW), lane departure prevention (LSS: Lane Support System), and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems also have been added, and autonomous braking with a pedestrian detection feature has been studied. IIHS also began evaluating FCW and AEB from 2014 model year vehicles. Euro NCAP proactively introduced performance evaluations for the advanced safety technologies AEB and LDW / LSS in 2014 model year vehicles, and began evaluating autonomous braking with a pedestrian detection feature for 2016 model year vehicles.


Trend to revise collision safety testing

 Regarding collision safety performance, the US NCAP is already conducting research on oblique offset MDB collision performance. The Euro NCAP is considering changing the immovable barrier criteria for offset collision to MDB. And after investigating the crash dummies it uses for testing, the Euro NCAP has decided to adopt the more advanced THOR* crash dummy instead of the current Hybrid III beginning in 2020. For side collision performance, the Euro NCAP currently evaluates occupant protection performance for the collision side (Near Side) of a vehicle, but is also studying the adoption of side collision performance evaluations for the opposite, occupant side (Far Side) of the vehicle.
 * THOR: The newest version of crash dummies used for frontal collision performance evaluations, under development since the early 1990s, which is capable of simulating the behavior and the injuries sustained to a person wearing a seatbelt. It is currently in the final stage of development.


Trend to implement NCAP standards in emerging countries

 The reason why the Latin NCAP was launched in 2010 and the ASEAN NCAP in 2012 was because the safety of cars sold in these regions by major automakers was considerably inferior to that of the safety of cars sold in the developed countries.

 NCAP in emerging countries were launched with the help of the Global NCAP, in particular the Euro NCAP, to improve the situation. Initially, the content of NCAP standards in emerging countries were determined according to the safety norms in each region, but it since has been announced that in the future regional NCAP will tailor its program contents to those of the Euro NCAP. How long it will take the NCAP to align their standards to those of the Euro NCAP will depend on the future response of local carmakers.

NCAP, IIHS, New Car Assessment Programme, Safety, collision, occupant protection, seatbelt, airbag

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