ANCAP to test how new cars behave underwater from 2023

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Australia’s independent vehicle safety assessor will soon make it harder for new cars to get a five-star rating, introducing stricter criteria and even tougher test scenarios from next year.


Susannah Guthrie

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Independent new-car safety assessor ANCAP is set to start scoring vehicles on how easily they allow occupants to escape when submerged in flood waters, and how well they stop young children from inadvertently being left in cars, as part of changes set to take effect next year.

From 2023, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program will make it harder for new cars to achieve a coveted five-star score by implementing stricter and more specific assessment criteria to see how cars respond in a variety of crash-test and safety scenarios.

One of the major changes will require manufacturers “to demonstrate how their new vehicles can allow occupants to more easily escape a submerged vehicle, or rescuers to access trapped occupants.”



“Vehicles trapped in flood waters or those that find themselves in a lake, river or other body of water are a danger to their occupants and present difficulties for first responders,” ANCAP said in a statement.

“ANCAP will assess whether car doors are able to be opened without battery power, and electric windows remain functional and able to be opened for up to 10 minutes after submergence.”

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The safety assessor will require manufacturers to prove their vehicles are easy to exit in the event of submergence in water.

Collision avoidance testing will also “broaden significantly” in 2023, with new scenarios to include a child pedestrian passing behind a reversing vehicle, a cyclist crossing the path of a vehicle turning into a side street, and a cyclist approaching a vehicle from behind as its occupants open the car doors.



Additionally, ANCAP will expand the active safety areas it assesses to include features like ‘child presence detection’ which assesses a car’s ability to “notify the driver or emergency services if a child has inadvertently been left in a locked car”.

While the safety body has been testing autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems since 2018 – assessing their ability to respond to other cars, pedestrians and cyclists – it will soon expand to include systems that detect and respond to motorcycles.

“Referred to as AEB Powered-Two-Wheeler, vehicles will need to be fitted with an AEB system capable of braking for a motorcycle in intersection turning scenarios, and where a motorcycle crosses in front of a car,” ANCAP stated.



“Vehicles will also be tested for their ability to detect and prevent side-swipe-type crashes with a motorcycle through more sophisticated active lane support systems.”

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Additionally, AEB systems will soon be tested on their ability to prevent head-on crashes and collisions at intersections.

ANCAP will also introduce a new piece of equipment that closely resembles an adult leg, in order to provide a better insight into the specific injury risks presented by vehicles.



The safety assessor, which was established in 1992, typically updates its protocols every two years, but the most recent major changes were last implemented in 2020, with COVID resulting in a three-year gap between that and the next round of updates.

As it has since 2018, a car’s overall rating will continue to be composed of scores achieved across four key areas: Adult Occupant (40 per cent), Child Occupant (20 per cent), Vulnerable Road User Protection (20 per cent) and Safety Assist (20 per cent).

ANCAP encourages consumers to look to purchase a vehicle with the most recent five-star rating possible, to ensure it features the latest crash protection and avoidance features.



ANCAP will release more detailed information on what to expect from 2023 later this year.

Susannah Guthrie

Susannah Guthrie has been a journalist since she was 18, and has spent the last two years writing about cars for Drive, CarAdvice, CarSales and as a motoring columnist for several in-flight and hotel magazines. Susannah’s background is news journalism, followed by several years spent in celebrity journalism, entertainment journalism and fashion magazines and a brief stint hosting a travel TV show for Channel Ten. She joined Drive in 2020 after spending a year and a half at the helm of Harper’s BAZAAR and ELLE’s online platforms. Susannah holds a Bachelor in Media and Communications from the University of Melbourne and cut her teeth as an intern for Time Inc in New York City. She has also completed a television presenting course with the National Institute of Dramatic Art. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and her one-year-old son who, despite her best efforts, does not yet enjoy a good road trip.

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