Crash Testing At the turn of the 20th century, and with the rising popularity of the automobile, the internal combustion engine pulled itself into a position of dominance over steam and electric. By the Fifties cars were a common sight- and so were car-related accidents. Though Crash testing had begun with General Motors’ 1934 barrier test, car safety features of the times, such as padded dashboards and recessed controls, were considered a luxury. For owners of popular Fifties models like the 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air, you could expect a stylish set of wheels that looked like nothing else on the road. Woe Betide anyone who had an accident in it though: with no seatbelts or other safety features, all occupants were left at the mercy of fate. For most car manufactures, safety took the proverbial back sear, so crumple zones and other energy-absorbing features mandatory in the design of today’s car simply didn’t exist. A 64-kilometre (40-mile)-per-hour, head-on collision would often see the Bel Air’s body crumple, the driver-side door fly open and the steering column punch into the driver as the front end concertinaed. As a result of the increasing number of cars on the road, the last half-century has seen car safety take a higher priority in the automobile industry. It’s primarily been driven by legislative measures to decrease road traffic collision fatalities, rather than particular demand by consumers. Because history has shown that although we are becoming more safety conscious, we tend to buy fast, powerful, stylish, cheap and practical before safe. After all, we’re planning on using our cars to take us to work, pick the kids up from school or go for day trips, and ploughing into another vehicle doesn’t really factor in to our itinerary. NCAP (the New Car Assessment Program) and Euro NCAP are the government-backed car safety evaluation schemes for the US and Europe, respectively. The Ford test centre in Merkenich, Germany, includes a 100-metre (329-foot) runway along which a sled on wheels, representing an oncoming vehicle, is propelled into the test car and then photographed with a high-speed camera at 1,000 frames per second, for experts to later examine. NCAP tests for a variety of low to medium-speed collisions, including potentially deadly car-to-car, side-impact collision at 50 kilometres (31 miles) per hour that the new Ford B-Max-one of the safest car in the world currently-excelled at. Centres like this run tests on whiplash, seatbelt protection assessment and stressing the computer-controlled safety measures common in modern cars, such as electronic stability control. It’s not all about the occupants either; Euro NCAP has made its pedestrian safety score an integral part of its rating. This is based on protection a car affords to the most vulnerable areas of a pedestrian- the legs and head- on being struck at 40 kilometres (25 miles) per hour.