Road accidents account for more than 1.24 million deaths worldwide every year and remain the leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 29.
‘Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020’, a United Nations initiative launched in 2011, calls in part for new car safety assessment programmes (NCAPs) to be established all over the world including Asean, one of the fastest growing automotive markets.
BizHive Weekly explores the momentous task undertaken by the Asean NCAP with various collaborators, governmental institutions, contributors and manufacturers in a concerted drive to ensuring safer motor vehicles for our roads.
Decade of Action: The global automotive safety initiative
On August 31, 1869, Mary Ward fell under the wheels of an experimental steam car travelling at six kilometres per hour and was killed almost instantly as a result of traumatic injuries to her head and neck.
The world had lost a noted amateur scientist who, in her most unfortunate and bizarre demise, had gained the dubious recognition of becoming history’s first documented fatality caused by a motor vehicle accident.
As the event had occurred long before the advent of mass produced motor vehicles, society at the time would have been forgiven for regarding the circumstances of her death as a result of an isolated freak accident involving a rare and unfamiliar machine.
In today’s world, motor vehicles of all sizes and shapes have emerged as everyday household items present on every continent, with an estimated one billion existing units making up the total worldwide volume.
In terms of global production, about 84 million new private and commercial units were manufactured last year alone, according to French-based International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers.
The trend of late would be more pronounced in the emerging economies with the Asean region set to see a near doubling of its market to 4.7 million units by 2018 (compared with 2.4 million in 2011), Frost & Sullivan reported last year.
The darker side
While the growth statistics show great leaps and bounds in the industry volume and economic gain, the lesser known side of the automobile story – casualties of motor vehicle related accidents – is one with dark and ominous overtones.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in its 318- page Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, road accidents accounted for more than 1.24 million deaths worldwide every year and they remained the leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 29.
Just as fast as emerging economies had seen volume growth in their respective automotive ecosystems, the casualties had also kept in stride as more than 80 per cent of road traffic deaths were reported in ‘middle income’ countries, the report pointed out.
Focusing on Malaysia, WHO reported that the country had some 20.2 million registered motor vehicles (all categories) and seen 6,872 road accident deaths in 2010, citing data from the Royal Malaysian Police.
According to the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), the country’s rate of related road accident deaths had been hovering in the 23 to 25 range per 100,000 population from 2001 to 2010.
This was notably above the average of 20.1 per 100,000 that WHO reported for middle income countries while Miros in its own research had projected 8,760 fatalities in Malaysia for the year 2015 and 10,716 for 2020.
United call for action
In undertaking a concerted and proactive initiative a global scale, the United Nations (UN) had launched ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020’ on May 11, 2011.
This was based on a unanimous proclamation in at the UN General Assembly in March 2010 to ‘steer the world to safer roads ahead’ to ‘save millions of lives’, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement.
An integral part of the Decade of Action entails the implementation of new car assessment programmes (NCAPs) in all regions of the world in order to increase the availability of consumer information about the safety performance of motor vehicles.
At present, various NCAPs represent countries and economic regions such as China (C-NCAP), Japan (JNCAP), South Korea (KNCAP), Australia and New Zealand – collectively known as Australasia (ANCAP), Europe (Euro NCAP), the US (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS and US NCAP) and South America and the Caribbean region as a whole (Latin NCAP).
Spearheading the various NCAPs established as far back as several decades, newly formed Global NCAP stated, “Over the next ten years there will be an unprecedented growth in passenger car use as their number more than doubles.
“In 2010 for the first time sales of light duty vehicles in emerging markets exceeded those of the mature economies.
“Thirty-seven million units were sold in the rapidly growing economies compared with 35 million in the already industrialised economies.
“As a result the global market for motor vehicles is expanding hugely especially in the rapidly motorising countries where the road safety challenge is the greatest,” it noted.
On the regional front, authorities in the rapidly growing Asean region – with the aforementioned potential doubling of its regional vehicle market by 2018 – have followed suit with the establishment of a NCAP for the region’s vehicles.
Global GNCAP and Miros had signed a collaborative Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in December 2011 to establish a pilot project for a NCAP in Southeast Asia to elevate motor vehicle safety standards, encourage a market for safer vehicles and raise consumer awareness in the Southeast Asia region.
ANCAP was also a signatory to this MoU as well as the respective Automobile Associations of Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines; this demonstrating the collective effort to bring the Asean region up to speed in working towards the common goals for the UN’s Decade of Action.
Having presented this primer, BizHive Weekly explores the momentous task undertaken by the Asean NCAP with various collaborators, governmental institutions, contributors and manufacturers in a concerted drive to ensuring safer motor vehicles for our roads.
A regional safety assessment platform: Introducing Asean NCAP
Concerted global and regional efforts to present car safety assessments have resulted in various new car assessment programmes (NCAPs) being formed in various economies and geopolitical economies with some spanning back several decades.
Within the Southeast Asia region, the Asean NCAP was formed together with the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), Automobile Association Malaysia (AAM), Automobile Association Singapore (AAS) and Automobile Association Philippines (AAP).
Asean NCAP Technical Committee chairman Khairil Anwar Abu Kassim told BizHive Weekly that the driving force behind the development of Asean NCAP was the movement of Decade of Action which was approved by Moscow Transport Ministerial meeting in 2009 and UN General Assembly in 2010.
“Decade of Action was officially launched on May 11, 2011.
One of the pillars is ‘Building Safer Vehicles’ in which introduction of new NCAPs play a major role.
The pilot programme was formed with collaboration of Miros and Global NCAP on December 7, 2011 with the headquarters and secretariat being Miros.”
Asean NCAP’s organisational structure involving members (Miros, AAM, AAP and AAS) includes the Steering Committee chairman Prof Dr Wong Shaw Voon (who is also Miros director general), communications manager Zulhaidi Jawi (Miros) while the technical advisors are peers from other regions: Latin NCAP, Australasian NCAP and Euro NCAP.
Principally, Asean NCAP tests cars that have already been launched and are available for consumers in any country of the Asean NCAP market: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Despite the promising start, the programme’s various component divisions and advisors definitely have a gigantic task ahead as just seven models involving eight variants have been tested to date under Asean NCAP.
“We have just started and are quite far behind more established NCAPs among the nine in the world.
Although we only had one test compared with established NCAPs (such as Euro NCAP which has conducted numerous tests), many have acknowledged this programme as successful first step.
“NCAPs use expensive tools but yet are very effective.
Therefore, financial support from various stakeholders is the key ingredient for us to move to next step,” Khairil Anwar highlighted.
When asked what sort of vehicles Asean NCAP focused on, he revealed that for the early phase, it was concentrating on only passenger vehicles for the time being.
Commercial vehicles such as pickup trucks would come later, especially when the crash lab capability (MIROS PC3) would be increased with a higher towing mass, he explained.
Regarding the factors and conditions that contribute towards a vehicle’s score or rating, he said: “Most important is the strength vehicle structure and how well the crumple zone is developed by the safety engineers.
“Airbags quantity and advanced seat belt systems such as pretensioners and load limiters will have an effect of the scoring as well.
For child occupants, it will significantly improve if the manufacturers introduce ISOFIX and top tether in the vehicle,” he noted.
Anatomy of a collision The actual crash test is based on a frontal Offset Deformable Barrier (ODB) impact test with the vehicle moving at 64 kilometres per hour, a reference velocity at which fatalities begin to occur.
The main objective is to assess the ‘crashworthiness’ of the vehicle upon a collision and, by extension, the level of safety given to its occupants in the standard test configuration of two adults, a small child and an infant.
The vehicle itself is prepared with numerous set-ups with the most salient determiners being crash test dummies (representing human occupants) fitted sensors to with to relay the parameters of the damage done to the dummies, corresponding to injuries to humans.
The ‘surrogate’ occupants consist of two adult Hybrid III dummies (weighing 88kg each with cables and instrumentation), one child dummy representing a 15kg three-year old child and one infant dummy weighing 11kg to represent an 18-month old infant.
“Currently, Hybrid III is the only dummy accepted worldwide to do the task of replacing human bodies.
Although there is a new dummy called THOR which is more ‘biofidelic’ (mimicking pertinent human physical characteristics) being developed, it is not currently used in regulation and NCAPs,” Khairil Anwar revealed.
Data derived from various parameters recorded during the test is processed via a protocol of calculations (beyond the scope of this article) used to determine the scores for adult occupant and child occupants.
Simplified for the layman, the crucial elements to note are injuries to the head, neck, chest as well as femurs (thigh bones), knees, upper tibia (large shin bone) and lower tibia.
Other variables involving the vehicle’s safety features and documented crash characteristic profile and real world conditions (referred to as ‘modifers’) are taken into consideration when assessing the overall crashworthiness.
In the case of adults, the score is represented by a star rating (with fi ve stars being the best possible result) while for child protection, the level of protection is published as a percentage with 100 per cent being the maximum score.
With the results of several vehicles tested being made public, Khairil Anwar said that so far, there had been positive response for manufacturers.
“Most of them seek Asean NCAP’s advice on vehicle improvement.
The public has mixed views but I would say it is on positive side.
“Asean NCAP will be benefi cial to the region’s auto market in the long term.
As much as possible, we are looking to harmonise the test method.
If the same car is produced in Asean countries and Japan per se, the safety levels in the two should not see any variation.
Hence, the ‘commonisation’ of parts in the different regions should benefit the market in the long run.
“After all, how much is a life worth? Priceless,” he asked rhetorically.
Beyond NCAPs: The need for a holistic approach
While various new car assessment programmes (NCAPs) strive to present accurate assessments in a transparent and unbiased manner with regards to ratings on crash worthiness of vehicles, this alone is not sufficient to reduce deaths and injuries.
The test methodology takes into consideration various assumptions such as proper tyres and tyre pressure, correct calibration of variables, standardised vehicle parts and fluids within manufacturer specifications and many more items in a long list of criteria.
However, the case in a real life scenario may not be at this optimum level of vehicle readiness as some vehicles may not have been properly maintained or have mismatched components as a result of unauthorised modifi cations or substandard replacement parts.
Khairil Anwar Abu Kassim, a Miros official who is also Asean NCAP Technical Committee chairman said new vehicles would undergo major tests of stability and drivability before approval of mass production.
“If we modify the shock absorbers and other chassis system, it might disturb the vehicle ecosystem and durability is the question although it is hard to prove this as the cause of collision,” he noted.
As an agency under Ministry of Transport Malaysia, Miros focuses on road user, road engineering and vehicle safety as the three main factors spearheading the overall safety proposition.
Khairil Anwar stated that in general, irregularities or insufficiencies in all three aspects of road safety were the cause of accidents.
Vehicle safety and road engineering improvement were much related to economical readiness of the country as they would involve budgets, he stated.
However, the human factor is a highly prominent determiner in gauging the overall effectiveness in reducing the rate of road accident deaths in any part of the world.
For example, a vehicle with a high level of safety standards in the hands of a reckless driver at high speed has a good probability of causing a road accident and endangering the lives of the vehicle’s, occupants and other road users including pedestrians.
If the worst scenario (a road fatality) happens as a result of reckless driving, the effectiveness of the said vehicle’s high NCAP rating can be considered somewhat ineffective as no current automotive safety technology sufficiently compensates for socially deviant behaviour of this nature.
Therefore, it must be said that the whole concept of safety requires a holistic solution on the part of proactive measures from local governments, regulatory bodies, enforcement agencies and the road users themselves.
Khairil Anwar’s take on the human factor was largely in line with the majority as he said, “The major factor as agreed by many road safety practitioners is the road user.
“Some say road users cause up to 90 per cent of accidents.
Speed needs to be managed, although the major perception is that speed kills.
“Road safety is everybody’s fight.
According to the data, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death to people of ages of 15 to 29 for the whole world.
“This shows how important it is to everyone. Therefore, everybody should play their role, and the first thing can be done easily is to fasten seat belts for everyone.”
He agreed with the school of thought in that the realm of road safety started with proper training and driving etiquette of the road users.
However, he opined that it would be hard to define ‘proper’ and improving driving etiquette required many community leaders to inculcate a safety conscious mind in every person.
He revealed that in a short run, Asean NCAP had already managed to see the improvement of vehicle safety had been elevated through the exercise of vehicle safety assessments.
“The single airbag variant (driver airbag) is no longer an attractive option to the consumer.
“Furthermore, it is a healthy competition for the manufacturer to score best results in which the real meaning is to provide the best safety equipment for that model to the consumer.” That being said, he rationalised that not only new cars were involved in accidents or collisions.
“Malaysia has recorded almost 11 million passenger vehicles.
There is no doubt that car safety levels in new cars are higher, but how do we improve the previous models? “Vehicle safety is hardly difficult to add on except for some new gadgets of active safety.
“We require a good ELV (end of life vehicle) system to ensure all unsafe vehicles produced will be demolished. Only safer car should be allowed on the roads.”
Making the safety grade: Asean NCAP ratings explained
The frontal offset crash test is conducted by placing crash test dummies (Hybrid III 50th percentile – male) at both the driver and front passenger seats and two child dummies (P3 and P1.5) inside the child restraint system (CRS) in the test car that moves at the closing speed of 64 kilometres per hour when it hits a barrier (crushable aluminum barrier) and comes to a stop.
Frontal occupant protection – Driver and front passenger
The result from sensors installed in the dummies and at the body of the car will be analysed and represented by human’s body region.
To sum up, the worst results from each dummy (implying injury level by comparison) by body region are considered (A).
The assessment on the vehicle is also carried out to consider real-world situation known as ‘modifi er’ assessment. Any ‘penalty’ (B) will reduce the previous score (A) to the fi nal score (C = A – B).
Out of 16 points, the star rating will be determined by the following scheme.
The results for the child occupants will be based on the child restraint system (CRS) used in the test as well as the injury level read by the in-dummy sensors. The P3 and P1.5 dummies represent a three year old child and an 18-month-old infant, respectively.
Thus, by the test defi nition, the result can be read as: the level of protection for the child occupant by using the stated CRS model in that car with specified (available) CRS attachment method; for example by using ISOFIX, top tether or solely a seatbelt.
The final result which is in percentage form will be derived from the following scheme.
As the result of the test is primarily for public consumption (for consumers to consider the safety protection offered by the car model via the NCAP assessment), they can simply refer to the star rating for adult occupant protection and percentage-based for child occupant protection, in which the former is marked by five stars as the best possible rating and the latter with 100 per cent as the best score.
MAI, automotive players respond to call for better safety ecosystem
With Asean NCAP having established its roots to address safety features for new cars in the region’s auto market, industry related agencies as well as the players themselves are well ahead of the curve when it comes to meeting current and future safety requirements.
Malaysian Automotive Institute (MAI), an agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, regards safety as one of most important criteria in the whole auto ecosystem and has taken this into consideration in relation to the latest version of the National Automotive Policy (NAP).
MAI’s chief executive officer Mohd Madani Sahari told the BizHive Weekly that the agency played a pivotal and supporting role to increase the safety features of vehicles.
“From a policy stand point, MAI puts forth recommendations towards enhancement of safety features. These enhancements are done in various aspects of the NAP especially in the newly soon to be announced NAP.
“The push towards making Malaysia as the Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV) hub is a direct measure in making vehicles safer.
“EEVs are not merely focusing on fuel efficiency and lower carbon emission but considerations in how safe the vehicle is also taken into consideration.
“These considerations are aligned with the requirements for vehicles to meet the minimum safety UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) regulation. We expect all new vehicles in Malaysia to adhere to UNECE regulation by 2015.
“We are very optimistic about it as we see the positive uptake of the industry players in enhancing the safety level of their vehicles,” he elaborated on MAI’s expectations of the automotive market in terms of addition of safety features and safety technology.
He revealed that MAI expected the Malaysian automotive industry to grow another three per cent in terms of its total industry volume (TIV) this year.
“By 2020, we forecast a TIV of one million units per year. While the gross domestic product (GDP) contribution from the automotive industry was recorded at 3.2 per cent in 2012,this contribution to GDP is expected to grow to 10 per cent by 2020.”
He noted that MAI had several platforms to facilitate the local industry players to adopt higher safety technologies.
While MAI promoted safety of vehicles through incentives, he believed the industry players needed to be facilitated in their endeavours to enhance safety in their products.
When asked about the role of local companies manufacturing parts for safety features (such as seat belts and airbags), he pointed out that these players were vendors that produced their components according to standards as specified by their customers.
It was the vehicle level that required standardisation and for the vendors to follow suit, he explained.
“A green automotive industry roadmap is currently being developed,” he revealed to BizHive Weekly.
“This roadmap will spell the future facilitation and institutional framework in the areas of green automotive and also the aspects of safety, security and vehicle comfort to consumers.
“Specifics across the value chain from manufacturers to after sales dealers and consumers will be stipulated, all to encourage greener and safe vehicles.”
Ford Motor Company’s four pillars for its global automotive operations are Quality, Green, Safe and Smart, as explained by David Westerman, Asia Pacific regional manager (Ford Export & Growth Operations).
“Safety leadership is core to the Ford brand, through crashworthiness and occupant protection that has led to top safety ratings around the world.
“When purchasing a vehicle, Ford understands customers consider safety a primary requirement in their decision-making process, especially where families are concerned.
“Ford vehicles are equipped with class-leading safety features and technologies that help provide the highest standards of occupant and road safety,” he stated.
Westerman’s statement on the pioneering automaker’s commitment to safety is well justified as the Ford Fiesta for the Asean market (assembled in Thailand) has achieved a five-star rating in the Asean NCAP for adult occupant protection and a 66 per cent score for child occupant protection.
He pointed out that the Fiesta’s five-star rating in the Asean NCAP helped further reinforced Ford’s commitment to provide class-leading safety with every Ford vehicle on offer.
“The Fiesta provides multi-dimension protection for the occupants on board, offered by smartly deployed airbags, body rigidity, and attention to detail that has gone into defining the Fiesta and its safety performance.
“Beneath Fiesta’s stylish exterior is a robust structure, crafted to preserve quality and enhance driver and passenger safety.
“More than half of the body structure is constructed in high-strength steel, including grades of very high-strength, dual-phase steel and ultra high-strength boron steel.
“These components add rigidity and save weight, increasing structural efficiency while also helping Fiesta deliver high fuel efficiency.”
The Fiesta is well-equipped with safety features to help protect its occupants in the instance of a collision, including seven airbags: driver and co-driver seat airbags, new side-chest airbags, and the inflatable air curtains for front and rear seat occupants.
The unique E-PAS power-steering gives the driver a better feel and improved agility when negotiating a curve. While the antilock braking system (double-circuit four-wheel anti-braking) and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) also contribute to enhancing the active safety of the car.
“Ford welcomes Asean NCAP to the region, driving consumer awareness and emphasising the importance of safety standardisation,” he said.
The safety features (passive and active) which are incorporated into Honda vehicles and may vary according to model are dual front SRS airbags, G-Force Control Technology (G-Con), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE), Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Brake Assist (BA) and ISOFIX.
Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s head of Marketing Akkbar Danial explained to BizHive Weekly, “One of the safety features which we would like to highlight is Honda’s G-CON which is developed to disperse and absorb impact energy, reducing injuries and signifi cantly improving safety for everyone involved in a col- lision, be it the driver, passenger or pedestrian.
“Honda always strives to improve to deliver products that exceed customer expectation.
One of the safety features which was improved is our VSA plus Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering (MA-EPS) which sensors our driving condition and applies the VSA programme to avoid over steering or under steering.
“We also have the Hill Start Assist and Follow Me Home lighting for the passenger’s convenience,” he said while stating for the record that the technologies came from Honda’s research and development facility Automobile R&D Center in Tochigi, Japan.” Akkbar said the development of the Asean NCAP was to elevate the vehicle safety standards, raise awareness and encourage a market of safer vehicles in the Southeast Asean region.
“Asean NCAP benefits the region’s auto market by having a certain safety standard.
The purpose of the crashworthiness rating programme is to provide consumers the information on the safety level of cars in a systematic and simple manner.
“Honda is proactively supporting the development of Asean NCAP by providing technical expertise and guidance to help uphold the assessment to reach international crash standards.”
When asked about his thoughts about third party modifications (such as shock absorbers, suspension system, disk brakes), he emphasised, “We would strongly encourage vehicle owners to send their cars to Honda authorised dealers as they are highly trained and equipped with knowledge to diagnose/troubleshoot and repair each customer’s car.
“This is also to avoid any unauthorized part being fixed to the car as our dealers will only use Honda genuine parts. Third party modifications will potentially void manufacturer’s warranty.”
Mitsubishi Motor s Malaysia Sdn Bhd (Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia) considers Asean NCAP a good exercise to raise the standards of safety features in vehicles.
“Asean NCAP will be beneficial to improve on motor vehicle safety standards and encourage an automotive market for safer vehicles through the development of a NCAP for the Asean region.
“It will also be beneficial as the ratings serve as a guide to consumers regarding the road safety worthiness of the cars they intend to buy and offer an incentive to carmakers to produce safer cars,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
That being said, there was a need to evaluate cars’ occupant protection based on NCAP requirement in the country, the company opined.
Though a car model had been evaluated in other NCAPs in the world and scored a good rating, it would not necessarily mean that the car would perform as well in Asean NCAP due to the manufacturing origin and quality, it pointed out.
“Some car models are developed with minimum safety specifications for certain market due to less demand on best safety performance.
To be eligible for a five star rating, a vehicle must have at least two airbags, electronic stability control and a seatbelt reminder, or it will only qualify for a maximum of four stars,” Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia opined.
Touching on the various safety features built into Mitsubishi vehicles, the company highlighted that for the Triton and Pajero Sport VGT, Hybrid Limited Slip Differential (LSD) gave excellent off-road response.
“Hybrid LSD combines the torque-sensing benefit of helical gears and the speed-sensing of a viscous coupling unit, all designed to work alongside ABS (anti-lock braking system) and EBD (electronic brake-force distribution).
The Pajero Sport VGT also comes with reverse camera for safety,” it added.
“As a global car, the all-new Mirage comes with active and passive safety features to protect its occupants.
Four-wheel ABS with EBD, along with dual front SRS airbags and seatbelt pretensioners, ISOFIX child seat mount, Child Lock and Anti-Pinch Power Window,” the company said of its most recent offering in the Malaysian auto market.
Being a distributor of the allelectric Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the company highlighted that the vehicle came with six airbags and Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body construction.
“RISE absorbs impact while providing a rigid occupant cell during a collision and also equipped with AVAS (Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System).
“The i-MiEV batteries also come with advanced safety. The batteries are placed in a waterproof battery pack that is located inside the body frame and enclosed in a well-crib frame to protect against impact damage,” it said.
Mitsubishi Motors’ EV (electric vehicle) development history began with the MINICAB EV in 1969.
The company had continued its research and development, concentrating principally on motors and batteries, it added.
“As time goes, safety features and mechanism of the EVs become more affordable for all,” the company stated, while adding that the research and development was conducted by its principle, Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in Japan.