Vehicle safety has a lot of checks before a model hits the market.
Vehicle safety is a priority for all western manufacturers, not just by decision but by regulation. The legal requirements to be able to sell a vehicle to the public are recorded as the ECE regulations; because they were developed by the Sustainable Transport Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, as the ECE rules for commercial vehicles. These technical regulations are constantly being updated and fixed in order to adapt to the ever evolving transport industry. As of the year 2010 the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations adopted all the ECE for the rest of world to a certain extent.
The ECE regulations concern a wide range and variety of categories for examples rules regarding Headlamps are specified UN R 1, 20 and 31, or seatbelts and seats which are in UN R 14 through 17, or the ones regarding collisions UN R 32,33, and 93 through 95.
To add to the ECE regulations, another harmonization level exists, that of the GTR (Global Technical regulations). They are handled by (?) the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations. Developed under a 1998 international Agreement on vehicle construction; to which the EU is a contracting party, and agreed by 38 Contracting Parties (including the EU, Japan, Russia, Korea, China, India and the United States of America), these regulations include testing requirements before a vehicle’s market release. Examples are the simulations and tests for crash detailed in GTR rules 5,7and 14, or requirements for cyclist and pedestrian protection detailed in GTR 9.
Each country also has its internal monitoring of vehicles that adheres to the ECE and GTR rules, countries develop their legal inspections and their follow up of the requirements, for example the MOT (Ministry of Transport) inspection in the UK or the ITV (Inspección técnica de vehículo) in Spain.
To add to that you also have consumer regulations, even though they are not mandatory, many manufacturers abide to them. Consumer tests rank the vehicles giving them qualification grade. They are private or by insurers, and many insurance policies also take these tests in their price. The most popular consumer test in Europe is EuroNCAP. These tests are more aggressive than the requirements set by ECE and GTR rules, while failing to abide will not stop a vehicles release, a bad result could affect the image of the model for clients. EuroNCAP has 4 categories; Adult Occupant, Child Occupant, Vulnerable Road Users, and Safety Assist. Adult Occupant evaluates if the passengers are safe considering seat belts, airbags etc., and the damages the passengers can receive. The Child Occupant category prioritizes how safe the vehicle is for children. Vulnerable Road Users focuses on how deadly the vehicle can be to pedestrians and cyclists. Safety Assist considers all the connected vehicle and ADAS functions to procure safety. You can check more at https://www.euroncap.com.
Regulations and consumer tests tend to have their revisions done in committees that are closely link to the industry to maintain updated with the emerging technologies while feasible and applicable to the models and reality. Always remember ECE/GTR regulations are a minimum, and they are updated frequently just like the technology they are based on. The latest meeting to update (as of the date of this post) happened on the 26th of august during year 2020. The ethics of most vehicle manufacturers pushes them to go beyond the regulations and aim for the highest rating in consumer tests.
The repository of legal regulations and requirements can be found here: https://www.unece.org/trans/main/wp29/presentation_regulations.html
About the Author: Luis Pedro Cobos
Luis Pedro is a Spanish researcher, he graduated as biomedical engineer at the UPC in Spain; and proceeded with a master’s degree in risk management and biomechanics. Furthermore, he also has a master’s degree in project management. He has worked for Volkswagen Group and SEAT in research and development of vehicle safety (both Active and Passive). His interest in the ever-evolving automotive industry and safety, plus the fact that as a biomedical and biomechanical engineer, the protection of human beings and minimizing the injuries in any accident is a must, he drove back to academia and into this PhD.