The country’s safest car has been revealed as a Volvo model that has seen no drivers or passengers killed inside it in the 16 years it has been on sale.
A high-tech safety mechanism for automatic braking saw the Volvo XC90 crowned the safest vehicle ever tested, according to independent laboratory Thatcham Research.
Since the launch of the Volvo XC90 in 2002, the car has sold more than 50,000 units, and researchers attribute the spotless safety record to the car’s early adoption of hazard detection technology that warns drivers of potential collisions.
Updated versions of these systems are called Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), and are now able to automatically apply the car’s brakes, preventing a collision from happening.
While the technology is now standard for many vehicles, including the Volkwagen Golf and several Mercedes models, the Volvo XC90 was one of the first to develop it.
There are various forms of AEB, but many work using lasers, cameras or a radar to detect other vehicles or pedestrians.
The technology is similar to automatic cruise control systems that detect the rear bumper of other cars on a motorway, and match their speed.
More recent developments allow vehicles to detect pedestrians while performing other potentially dangerous manoeuvres, such as reversing out of a parking space.
Thatcham Research calls AEB the most significant development since the safety belt, which has been compulsory in new vehicles in the UK since 1965.
Thatcham says AEB could save 1,100 lives in the UK over the next decade, and more than 122,000 casualties.
The technology also has the potential to reduce car insurance premiums, as evidence suggests that its use can lower the risk of collisions by up to 38 per cent.
Although AEB systems are expensive to replace if they are damaged, the lower risk for insurers can result in lower premiums.
Research by the BBC suggests that the cost of insurance on a 2018 Volkswagen Golf with AEB is 10 per cent lower than a 2011 model without it.
Overall, one in three cars on sale in the UK comes with AEB, and a further one in three has it as an optional extra.