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Crash-avoidance technology hits record levels

Date: 09 February 2018   |   Author: Sean Keywood

It wasn't too long ago that when people talked about vehicle safety it was mainly in terms of how occupants were protected in a crash. In recent years, however, there's been a greater emphasis on how new technology can help prevent accidents from occurring in the first place.

Although fully autonomous cars are not quite here yet, semi-autonomous safety systems are becoming more common, and newly released data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveals that well over half of all new cars sold in the UK are now fitted with this technology in some form.

There have been improvements across the board since the SMMT previously revealed such data in 2016. Taking the most commonly fitted tech - collision warning systems - the data shows the number of cars fitted with these systems increased from 58.1% to 66.8%.

The data also breaks down whether such safety features have come as standard or been chosen as options, and the new figures show 39.8% of cars came with a collision warning system as standard, and 27% with it as an optional extra, compared with previous figures of 30.7% and 27.4%.

In another major step for safety, the latest figures showed that autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems are now fitted to more than half of cars sold. 

Compared with the previous set of figures, the number of cars fitted with AEB increased from
39% to 53.1%. In the most recent figures, 28.4% of cars had the system fitted as standard, and 24.7% as an optional extra, compared with previous figures of 18% and 21%.

For both systems, the figures show that while the number of drivers choosing safety technology options was largely static, the overall number of cars on the roads with them was driven up significantly because they are now standard on more cars. Safety campaigners have previously called for such systems to be standardised, with studies showing that AEB, which is now required for a Euro NCAP five-star safety rating, can potentially result  in  a 38% reduction in real-world rear-end crashes, and a 20% reduction in low-speed accidents.

The SMMT data also shows that the number of cars fitted with overtaking or blind-spot sensors increased from 35.8% to 42.1%. These features are now fitted to 5.2% of cars as standard and 36.9% as an option, compared with 3.4% and 32.4% previously. 

Finally, the proportion of new cars fitted with adaptive cruise control went from 31.7% to 36.2%, with it fitted on 6.9% of cars as standard and 29.3% as an option, compared with 5.6% and 26.1% previously.

Features only included in the latest set of data include parking assistance, fitted to 58.8% of models, with 21.9% standard and 36.9% optional, and blind junction view, fitted to 9.7%, with 0.3% standard and 9.4% as an option.

The SMMT says that advances in technology have contributed to the number of road accidents in the UK falling by nearly 10% during the past five years, and that other features coming to market are set to improve safety still further.

These include traffic jam pilot systems, where, in the right conditions, the car can take over driving in slow-moving traffic, smartphone-controlled remote parking, and pre-collision warning systems to detect vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said, "Safety is the number one priority for vehicle manufacturers and the pace of technological change is faster than before, with driver assistance technologies now available on the majority of cars. 

"Fully autonomous cars may still be some way off, but millions of consumers are already enjoying the benefits of new technology, which can only help make our roads safer."