The Center for Automotive Assessment and Management (CAAM) in early January 2024 released the updated official draft of the China New Car Assessment Program (C-NCAP), replacing the previous C-NCAP evaluation protocol published in 2021. With an eye towards zero fatalities, zero injuries and ultimately zero accidents, the C-NCAP 2024 protocol makes active safety, incorporating advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), driver monitoring systems (DMS) and road feature recognition (RFR), a key element of the C-NCAP 2024 initiative.

Advanced driving features such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane detection, blind spot warning and vulnerable road user (VRU) detection are increasingly important in the new C-NCAP 2024 protocols. This White Paper provides a comprehensive overview of the updates to C-NCAP 2024 protocols, the influence of NCAP on mobility, the role of perception

What Is NCAP and What Role Does It Play in the Automotive Industry?

The New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) is a pivotal vehicle safety evaluation program that assesses new automobile designs for their ability to protect vehicle occupants during accidents and their capability to prevent accidents altogether. Recent advances in ADAS technology have extended the reach of NCAP to include testing protocols that protect not only vehicle occupants but also vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and bicyclists. Established initially in the United States in 1979 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), NCAP has become an influential global benchmark, inspiring similar programs in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Australasia.

At its core, NCAP provides consumers with vital information on new vehicles’ safety features and crashworthiness. This is achieved through a series of rigorous tests, including frontal and side impact tests, and, increasingly, evaluations of ADAS that contribute to active safety. Such tests are designed to simulate real-world crash scenarios that could result in serious injuries or fatalities, thus gauging a vehicle’s effectiveness in preventing or mitigating the effects of such incidents.

Vehicles are rated on a scale, typically from one to five stars, with five stars representing the highest level of safety. This rating system not only aids consumers in making more informed purchasing decisions but also incentivizes manufacturers to enhance the safety features of their vehicles.

Moreover, the evolution of NCAP reflects the advancements in automotive technology and changing road safety paradigms. For instance, recent updates in various national NCAPs have started to include assessments of pedestrian protection, post-collision safety and the effectiveness of electronic stability control (ESC) systems.

As vehicle technology evolves, NCAP continues to adapt its assessment methods to ensure that new and emerging technologies, such as autonomous driving (AD) features, are thoroughly evaluated for safety. This ongoing development highlights NCAP’s role in promoting higher safety standards, thereby reducing road traffic injuries and fatalities globally.

Overview of China’s New Car Assessment Program

C-NCAP was officially launched in 2006 by the China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC), taking into account local traffic accident studies, road conditions, driving patterns and the technological and economic development of the industry and the country. Since C-NCAP’s inception, it has been modified six times, with updates released in 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018, 2021 and 2024. Today, vehicle passive safety technology is becoming more and more refined, and active safety technology has also entered a greater stage of development. The integration of passive and active safety technology will constitute a universal safety protection system for vehicle occupants and VRUs. C-NCAP 2024 evaluations can be broken down into three main sections:

1. An occupant protection section that includes:

a. Vehicle crash test
b. Child protection static evaluation test
c. Low-speed rear-end collision neck protection test
d. Virtual evaluation test

2. A vulnerable road user (VRU) protection section that includes:

a. Head-shaped test
b. Leg-shaped test
c. AEB-VRU test

3. An active safety section that includes:


i. AEB – car-to-car (C2C)
ii. AEB false reaction
iii. Lane keep assist (LKA)
iv. Emergency lane keeping (ELK)
v. Lane departure warning (LDW)
vi. Intelligent speed limit system (ISLS)
vii. Blind spot detection (BSD)
viii. Door opening warning (DOW)
ix. Rear cross-traffic alert (RCTA)

b. Driver monitoring system (DMS)
c. Road feature recognition (RFR)

i. Traffic sign recognition (TSR)

Passive Safety in C-NCAP 2024

C-NCAP’s first and a majority of second sections of testing and evaluation protocols can also be classified as passive safety, where a vehicle’s mechanical engineering and design provide safety to the vehicle occupants. One way passive safety protects vehicle occupants is by designing the vehicle in a manner that absorbs the energy of the crash. Under the occupant protection section in C-NCAP 2024, vehicles undergo:

  • 1. Frontal impact tests: C-NCAP conducts frontal crash tests by propelling a vehicle at a certain speed into a deformable or rigid barrier, covering a part or whole of the front of the vehicle on the driver’s side. This test simulates a frontal collision, common in real-world accidents, and tests the vehicle’s ability to protect occupants through crumple zones and restraint systems. Choosing a deformable barrier helps mimic the interaction between vehicles of similar mass and structure in an accident. Some examples of frontal impact tests required in C-NCAP 2024 are:
  • a. Frontal 100% overlap rigid barrier crash test, wherein the test vehicle impacts a fixed rigid barrier with 100% overlap at a speed of 55-56 km/h.
  • b. Frontal 50% overlap moving progressively deforming barrier crash test, wherein the test vehicle and the deformation barrier collide at a speed of 49-51 km/h each. The overlap width of the collision between the vehicle and the deformation barrier shall be within a range of 50% of the vehicle width ± 25 mm.


2. Side impact tests: The side impact barrier test simulates a vehicle being struck on the side at an intersection by another vehicle. The pole test, involving a narrow object striking the vehicle’s side, assesses the performance of side airbags and the vehicle’s structural integrity in protecting the occupants’ head and torso areas. Side impact tests are crucial for assessing the protection against head injuries when the impact area does not allow for large deformations to absorb the crash energy. Section of the China NCAP Management Regulations 2024 details the side impact test protocol wherein a deformable energy-absorbing barrier is driven perpendicular to the test vehicle with the centerline of the mobile barrier aligned with the test vehicle’s R point 200 mm backward position and made to collide with one side of the vehicle at 60-61 km/h speed. The test vehicle and dummies are subsequently inspected for damage, and a safety rating is given accordingly. A vehicle’s R-point (aka seating reference point) refers to the intersection point of the midplane of the seat.

3. Rollover tests: Rollover tests are not specifically highlighted in all NCAP protocols, including C-NCAP’s publicly detailed methodologies. However, the strength of the vehicle roof might be assessed indirectly through other structural integrity tests. The focus on rollover protection can be implicit within the overall vehicle safety ratings, influenced by factors such as vehicle design and center of gravity studies.

4. Whiplash protection in rear impacts: C-NCAP includes assessments of whiplash protection in rear impacts, examining the design and effectiveness of the vehicle’s seats and head restraints. These tests are essential for evaluating how well the vehicle protects occupants against neck injuries, which are particularly common in rear-end collisions. C-NCAP 2024 requires a low-speed rear-end collision neck protection test in which the test vehicle’s driver seat and restraint system are modeled after the original vehicle structure and installed on a mobile skid. The mobile skid is launched with a specific acceleration waveform to simulate the process of rear collision. A dummy is placed on the seat to evaluate the protection of the driver’s seat head restraint on the occupant’s neck by measuring the neck injury during the rear collision.

Active Safety in C-NCAP 2024

Active safety refers to the suite of technologies in a vehicle designed to prevent accidents by assisting or alerting the driver to potential hazards. These systems function before a crash occurs, distinguishing them from passive safety features like airbags and seat belts, which mitigate injury during and after an accident.

In the context of C-NCAP, active safety features are crucial components that are evaluated to ensure the safety performance of vehicles sold in China. C-NCAP’s assessment includes testing and rating technologies such as ESC, anti-lock braking systems (ABS), DMS, ADAS –like lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking– and RFR. By rigorously assessing these features, C-NCAP enhances consumer awareness of vehicle safety capabilities and drives manufacturers to integrate advanced active safety technologies, significantly contributing to road safety and reducing accident rates across China. Below is a list of the ADAS features tested in C-NCAP 2024:

1. Automatic emergency braking: When the AEB system detects an imminent collision with another vehicle, pedestrian or obstacle, it triggers a warning to the driver. If the driver does not respond adequately to the threat by braking or if the situation escalates to a critical level, the AEB system will automatically apply the brakes to slow down or stop the vehicle, aiming to avoid the collision or lessen the impact force. C-NCAP 2024 mandates testing of various types of AEB systems:

a. AEB-pedestrian: In this protocol, the vehicle’s ability to automatically emergency brake upon detecting a pedestrian is tested. The vehicle is made to approach the pedestrian at various speeds ranging from 10 km/h to 80 km/h, and at various angles ranging from directly behind the pedestrian to while making right or left turns. The testing protocol also tests the AEB system’s ability to react to occluded pedestrians that might come in the vehicle’s path and are also hidden from the test vehicle driver’s view.
The AEB-pedestrian testing protocol goes a step further in ensuring VRU protection by testing the AEB system’s performance in detecting not only adults but also children. Additionally, the AEB system is tested for both day and night conditions, pushing the system’s limits.

b. AEB–two-wheelers: This protocol tests AEB for its effectiveness in avoiding or mitigating collisions with two-wheelers. AEB–two-wheeler testing incorporates multiple scenarios wherein the test vehicle speed, angle of approach to the two-wheeler and visibility are changed. A few of the testing protocols (which are also similar in AEB-pedestrian) are:

i. CBNAO-50 (car-to-electric bicyclist near side adult with obstruction 50%), wherein the vehicle approaches the near side of the electric bicycle without braking and wherein 50% of the front vehicle width will collide with the bike without any AEB system. The vehicle is tested at 20 km/h, 40 km/h and 60 km/h, while the e-bike approach speed is 15 km/h.

ii. CSFAO-50 (car-to-scooter farside adult with obstruction 50%), wherein the scooter approaches the vehicle perpendicularly at 20 km/h and would collide with 50% of the frontal vehicle width if no AEB system activates. The vehicle is tested at speeds of 20 km/h, 40 km/h and 60 km/h.

iii. CBLA-25 (car-to-electric bicyclist longitudinal adult with overlap 25%), wherein the vehicle approaches a longitudinally traveling e-bike in front of it without brakes and the e-bike and vehicle have a 25% overlap. The vehicle is tested at approach speeds of 20 km/h, 40 km/h, 60 km/h and 80 km/h while the e-bike travels at 15 km/h.


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