Jonathan Newell finds out about the Australian Government investment in “Crashlab”, a test facility for assessing vehicle safety performance and autonomy.
The first half of 2018 has seen considerable strengthening in Australia’s position within the global community of automotive safety and autonomy test organisations. The country already has the well-established Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) for providing safety ratings of new vehicles coming onto local markets and is now making use of its experience and expertise to expand the organisation’s capabilities and break into the world of autonomous vehicle testing.
There are a number of NCAP laboratories around the world, each focusing on products being introduced into local markets. This is necessary as car manufacturers vary specifications by region and such localisation can have a detrimental effect on safety standards if it isn’t monitored and assessed.
Additionally, such test organisations regularly “move the goal posts” as technology improves and new active and passive safety systems are developed. For example, as autonomous emergency braking systems are developed, the expectation is that vehicle manufacturers will make use of the technology to make their cars safer.
The NCAP organisations therefore have a road map, which details the expectations over the coming years of what technology will be needed to gain the coveted 5-star rating. Because of this, cars that were rated 5-star five years ago will without question fail to achieve the same rating if retested against today’s standards.
During April, Simon Edmonds, a senior vehicle safety inspector at Euro NCAP visited Ancap’s Sydney and Melbourne facilities to share test data and align their protocols. According to Dr Michiel van Ratingen, Secretary General of Euro NCAP, such a visit reflects the importance of collaboration at all levels.
“We want safer cars for everyone, no matter which country or region they live in, and our approach to align with ANCAP is already seeing vehicle manufacturers build cars to a higher standard for both world markets,” he said.
On the back of the harmonisation visit, the Federal Government of Australia also pledged to continue funding ANCAP for another five years to the tune of AUS$6.64 million.
According to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Michael McCormack, the funding will assist ANCAP to continue the role it plays in testing and assessing new cars.
“We are investing in making roads safer around Australia which helps drivers, but this is just one piece of the puzzle,” McCormack said.
“That’s why the Government is working with road safety advocates and organisations, such as ANCAP, to head towards zero road fatalities in Australia.”
According to ANCAP Chief Executive James Goodwin, the funding will help to keep abreast of the latest changes in vehicle technology for improved safety.
“Continued emphasis to elevate the safety of new vehicles is critical to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by serious crashes,” he said.
Further funding for ANCAP beyond the 5-year support pledge, has been received to enhance local crash test capabilities to assist with independent testing of autonomous vehicle safety technologies.
Local Minister, Melinda Pavey, announced an investment of AUS$1.6 million to upgrade the existing Crashlab test facility to enable the assessment of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems and other advanced driver assistance systems.
“Expanding Crashlab will support ANCAP in encouraging the introduction of AEB and other life-saving technologies,” Mrs Pavey said.
This investment comes in addition to the recent upgrade of crash test equipment and the acquisition of new, more sophisticated dummies.