Watch how two cars made 20 years apart deal with a high-speed crash

Until the perfect autonomous car drives onto the scene, the reality is that accidents, crashes, and pileups are going to keep happening.

The ongoing challenge for automakers is to build a car that isn’t so weak it crumples like a concertina on impact, but yet isn’t so rigid it obliterates any unsuspecting pedestrian who happens to step out in front of it.

A reassuring video released this week by the European New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) — an EU-backed vehicle safety scheme — shows just how much automobile design has improved since 1997, when NCAP performed its very first crash test.

The video (above) shows two cars, manufactured nearly 20 years apart, speeding into a solid block of concrete.

Check out how the 1997 Rover 100 pretty much disintegrates as it slams into the wall. The sole airbag seems to fly off into another part of the car while the engine ends up in the lap of the dummy driver. It’s a horrible mess, and explains why the vehicle only scored one star out of a possible five for occupant safety — and two out of five for pedestrians — when it was rated for safety back in the ’90s.

Now compare that to how a 2015 Honda Jazz (Honda Fit in the U.S.) deals with it. Admittedly, neither impact is pretty, but on close inspection it’s easy to see the improved protection the newer motor offers, advances that secured it an overall five-star rating.

“Safety technologies that were non-existent or optional at most — such as driver and passenger airbags, side protection airbags, belt reminders, and electronic stability control — are now standard on all cars sold in Europe,” NCAP notes on its website.

NCAP estimates that since it launched its crash tests 20 years ago, more than 78,000 lives have been saved through improved car design. To date, the safety body has published more than 630 safety ratings, crash-tested around 1,800 cars, and spent more than 160 million euros (about $172 million) on helping to make vehicles safer.

Before NCAP’s arrival, car manufacturers selling into Europe only had to meet basic legislative crash test requirements for new vehicles. But the results were never published, leaving consumers in the dark. These days, car buyers can hop over to NCAP’s site to compare safety ratings for each new vehicle coming to market, with the system also serving to motivate manufacturers to build the safest machines possible.

In the U.S., a similar safety program is operated by the National Highway Traffic Administration. Want to find out the safety rating for your vehicle? Then go ahead and input the make and model here.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Citroën says you could drive its tiny Ami One electric car without a license

Citroën's Ami One concept car is an electric vehicle that's as cute as it is compact. The miniature motor only has a top speed of 28 mph, so the French automaker imagines it as a shareable runaround for short drives.
Cars

Waymo rules and Apple trails in California self-driving car benchmarks

California's DMV releases annual reports of self-driving car disengagements on public roads. In the most recent reports. Waymo had the best performance, GM Cruise came in second, and Apple's self-driving program was in last place.
Cars

Researchers teach self-driving cars to predict pedestrians’ next moves

University of Michigan researchers are developing a system that teaches self-driving cars to predict pedestrian movement. Humans don't always act in their own best self-interest, so autonomous cars will need to practice protective driving.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.
Cars

Psychedelic Volkswagen Microbus from Woodstock returns for an encore

With its trippy paint scheme, the Volkswagen "Light" bus became a symbol of the 1969 Woodstock music festival. VW teamed up with the artist who created this rolling mural to stage a comeback in time for Woodstock's 50th anniversary.
Product Review

Mercedes-Benz updates the timeless G-wagen for the modern world

For decades, the G-Class has been an outlier in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, a body-on-frame brute with the soul – and driving manners – of an off-road pickup. With the all-new G550, Mercedes seeks to smooth out some of the rough edges.
Cars

Amazon plugs in with $700 million investment in electric pickup company Rivian

Amazon invested $700 million for a minority stake in U.S. all-electric truck maker Rivian, according to a joint release. The announcement follows a Reuters report that GM and Amazon might invest $1 billion to $2 billion in the company.
Cars

2019 RAM 1500 Classic Warlock special edition: Badass style without the whoop

If you like the looks of blacked-out badass trucks without the cost of a desert racer, FCA announced the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock, a special edition pickup that focuses on appearance with only a touch of additional off-road capability.
Cars

2020 GMC Acadia toughens up on the outside, gets smarter on the inside

The 2020 GMC Acadia crossover gets styling updates and a more rugged AT4 trim level. Under the skin, the Acadia sports a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a wider array of tech features.
Cars

Nissan is using old Leaf batteries to power and connect off-the-grid campers

Nissan has teamed up with trailer manufacturer Opus to design a mobile, weatherproof power pack built with battery cells sourced from the first-generation Leaf. Called Roam, the pack stores enough electricity to power a camper for up to a…
Cars

Alfa Romeo’s latest Ferrari-powered F1 race car is ready to hit the track

Alfa Romeo is doubling down on Formula One racing after a decades-long hiatus. Now essentially a support team for Ferrari, its 2019 driver lineup includes a former world champion and a potential future star.
Cars

Subaru’s latest VIZIV concept car is pumped full of adrenaline

The Subaru VIZIV Adrenaline is the seventh member of the Japanese automaker's family of VIZIV concept cars. It debuts at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, but for now, all we're getting is a shadowy teaser image.
Cars

Audi is advancing the tech that teaches cars to talk to traffic lights

Audi is teaching its cars the language of traffic lights. The company developed technology that tells motorists what speed they should drive at in order to catch as many green lights as possible.