Industry body says two-thirds of new cars feature advanced safety kit.

A leading UK car industry body says cars are 'safer than ever before' as research shows that two-thirds of the country’s new cars are offered with safety assistance systems such as autonomous emergency braking and collision warning.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) made the claim as analysis from Jato Dynamics, showed that 66.8 percent of new cars are available with at least one self-activating safety system.

Collision warning systems, which beep to alert the driver when they sense an imminent accident, are the most common, appearing on almost 1.8 million new cars last year.

Parking assistance was the second most popular system, appearing on 1.58 million new vehicles, while autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which hits the brakes automatically if an impending crash is detected, was the third most popular option, being fitted to 1.43 million cars.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said: ‘Safety is the number one priority for vehicle manufacturers and the pace of technological change is faster than ever before, with driver assistance technologies now available on the majority of vehicles cars. Fully autonomous cars may still be some way off but millions of consumers are already enjoying the benefits of new technology which can only help make our roads safer.’

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Despite the SMMT’s positive stance, though, some say car manufacturers need to go further. In September last year, Matthew Avery, of Thatcham Research, criticised Britain’s most popular car – the Ford Fiesta, which achieved five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test, but does not offer AEB as standard.

‘That one of the UK’s best-selling vehicles is a five-star Euro NCAP car is good news,’ said Avery. ‘However, its AEB system is only available as an option, which is a shame as fewer than five percent of car buyers take up additional safety packs. For this reason the Seat Ibiza remains our top safety choice of the superminis launched so far in 2017.’

Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of Euro NCAP, said the organisation was trying to encourage the use of collision mitigation technology, but warned that manufacturers should not forget ‘the basics’ of structural safety.

‘Euro NCAP is pushing for the fitment of advanced technologies and manufacturers have responded well, with AEB now commonplace on most new cars,’ he said. ‘However, they should not forget the basics of occupant protection in case of a crash. All occupants deserve to be equally well protected, whether they’re an adult driver or a child seated in the rear.’