Thatcham Research reveals What Car? Safety Award 2024 shortlist
• Judges considered five-star Euro NCAP rated vehicles, along with other criteria such as safety innovation in the protection of vulnerable road users (VRUs)  and mass market appeal
• For the first time, on-road advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) performance was considered during the judging process
• Judges noted improvements in ADAS performance and implementation in this year’s shortlist
• All cars combined excellent crash protection and avoidance capabilities
• Vehicle manufacturers also rose to the challenge of new Euro NCAP testing protocols
Thatcham Research is today revealing the shortlist for the What Car? Safety Award 2024, with the five vehicles in contention representing some of the safest vehicles on UK roads today.
The shortlisted cars were selected by judges  based on Euro NCAP test scores, in addition to other core criteria such as mass-market appeal, VRU protection and the performance of the car’s passive and active safety technology .
Alex Thompson, principal engineer of automotive safety at Thatcham Research and What Car Safety Award judge, said:
“In 2023 we had new automotive brands enter the UK market, but thankfully that did not mean a compromise on safety performance. With the notably expanded safety requirements and new test scenarios from Euro NCAP, it is ever more impressive that both new and established brands took the challenge head on and delivered high achieving safety scores across a wide variety of vehicles."
“Vehicle manufacturers must also receive credit for listening to consumers and designing safety systems that support the driver and work with them collaboratively, a challenging task when combined with complex testing and assessments,” he continued.
Euro NCAP secretary general and What Car? Safety Award judge, Michiel van Ratingen, also commented: “Last year, Euro NCAP released 18 car safety ratings, which underwent even more rigorous safety testing than usual due to updates in Euro NCAP requirements for collision avoidance, crash protection and post-crash safety. In collision avoidance we included new motorcycle scenarios and a scenario against ‘dooring’ – both of critical importance for vulnerable road users.
“We also included the evaluation of vehicle submergence counter measures in the updated 2023 rating, which with the increase of flooding due to global climate change has become essential. We must congratulate the short-listed manufacturers on their response to these updates – they continue to prioritise safety and make the latest solutions available for consumers. The What Car? Awards is an important recognition of their efforts.”
The What Car? Safety Award 2024 shortlist
The models in contention for the What Car? Safety Award 2024, in alphabetical order, are:
BMW 5 Series
The BMW 5 Series is a well-known and popular model, and BMW have ensured that all the safety features you would expect from a well-established brand are present. The 5 Series excelled in vulnerable road user protection (86%), and it has a pop-up bonnet to reduce the injury of pedestrians and cyclists in the event of collision.
The vehicle also allows for ADAS customisation, enabling drivers to tailor the system how they want, discouraging the systems being turned off all together. With some ADAS receiving negative feedback from customers, customisation can encourage drivers to keep the system on, ensuring that the safety benefit is not lost.
As a newcomer to the What Car? Safety Award, BYD has excelled at producing this all-electric car, featuring many safety technologies often found on more premium vehicles.
In particular, the BYD SEAL performed extremely well, scoring full points in the latest Euro NCAP tests involving motorcyclist blind spot detection, sudden braking and the complex turn across path  scenarios. Safety systems often find motorcyclists difficult to detect due to their small profile, so it is great to see newer brands like BYD taking vulnerable road user safety seriously.
The RZ continues Lexus’ strong track record for safety. This all-electric car scored highly across the board including a score of 87% on the adult occupant and child occupant categories. It was also awarded full points on its AEB vulnerable road user performance (84%) which includes challenging nighttime scenarios.
The RZ is also fitted with a direct driver monitoring system as standard, which aims to ensure driver safety on longer journeys by monitoring sleepiness.
Mercedes EQE SUV
The EQE SUV is exactly what you would expect from a carmaker that excels in vehicle safety. In the AEB car to car scenarios the EQE SUV achieved the highest score of our shortlist (8.9/9), narrowly missing out on full points. However, in the particularly challenging head-on AEB scenario, the EQE SUV did manage to achieve full points.
Also achieving the highest child occupant protection score of the shortlist (90%), this vehicle can automatically disable the front passenger airbag when a child seat is installed in the seat, and automatically re-enable it if the child seat is removed.
With its ADAS performance now meeting its already high performing Euro NCAP score, the ID.7 boasts a variety of innovative safety technology aimed at reducing risk to vulnerable road users such as a pop-up bonnet and sudden door opening prevention if a cyclist rides alongside the driver door. Its 95% adult occupant protection score is also the highest on our shortlist.
The Safety Award winner will be announced at the 2024 What Car? Awards ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London, on Thursday 18 January.
The safety timeline
This year, the safety timeline was used as part of the judging process to categorise the different safety technologies found in the shortlisted vehicles.
The timeline outlines the different scenarios when specific safety technology can be in-use. It begins with ‘safe driving’ which uses technology to encourage safer driving.
It then moves to ‘crash avoidance’ which uses advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to prevent a collision from occurring.
If a collision is unavoidable, the timeline then progresses to ‘crash protection’ which aims to protect anyone who is involved in a crash, whether they are an occupant, in another vehicle, or are a VRU.
The final part of the timeline is ‘post-crash safety’ which looks to provide immediate support to people involved in a collision.
The safety timeline was a crucial part of 2024’s judging process, allowing our panel to better compare the performance of our shortlisted cars across each of the four stages.
The review of these safety features also extended to the implementation of ADAS technology and whether the vehicles demonstrated a cooperative performance between drive and vehicle.
 Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs) are those unprotected by an outside shield, as they sustain a greater risk of injury in any collision with a vehicle and are therefore highly in need of protection against such collisions. Examples of VRU include pedestrians and cyclists
 Judges are Tom Leggett, vehicle technology manager, and Alex Thompson, principal engineer – vehicle safety, at Thatcham Research, Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general, and Matthew Avery, director of strategic development, at Euro NCAP, and Claire Evans, consumer editor at What Car?
 Passive safety focuses on impact protection and the performance of seatbelts and airbags, while Active safety focuses on crash-avoidance technologies such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Support Systems (LSS) and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), amongst others.
 AEB Turn Across Path tests scenarios where the pedestrian is crossing a road into which a car is turning. These situations present different challenges due to the relative angles and distances between test car and pedestrian.