Ground Vehicle Crash Testing


Unlike Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the New Car Assessment Program’s test protocols are intended to provide consumers with comparative vehicle safety information in order to assist consumers with vehicle purchasing decisions and to encourage motor vehicle manufacturers to make vehicle safety improvements.

This program also enables vehicle manufactures to compare their vehicle’s safety record to that of their competitors and, in many cases, encourages vehicle manufactures to voluntarily improve their vehicle designs so they can ensure that they receive the highest NCAP rating possible; often exceeding minimum standards required under FMVSS.


Official NCAP Tests:

In the U.S. the NHTSA selects and awards contracts to independent crash test labs to execute these official NCAP tests.  These labs execute such tests on behalf utilizing government furnished crash test dummies and test vehicles.

Calspan is one such lab and has been executing vehicle crash tests for the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) since the program’s inception; Test Number 1 which Calspan executed on June 6, 1979.  The tests that Calspan executes for the NHTSA include the Full Frontal, Side Moving Deformable Barrier and the Side Pole.


Optional NCAP Tests:

In 1987, the NHTSA published a notice establishing an Optional Test Program. The optional program serves to provide consumers with up-to-date safety information on new vehicles that have undergone a mid-model year production change, models with optional safety equipment that the agency had not selected for testing, or a make and model not selected for testing by the agency. The optional NCAP program operates according to the same guidelines and procedures as the regular NCAP.

In order for a vehicle that has already been tested by the agency to qualify for testing under the optional NCAP program, a vehicle manufacturer must request an Optional NCAP Test to be conducted at Calspan and submit to NHTSA evidence that it has changed the vehicle to improve significantly the NCAP test results for that vehicle. The agency then analyzes the manufacturer’s submission and informs the manufacturer whether it has approved the vehicle for optional testing.


Trial NCAP Tests:

Whenever a vehicle manufacturer desires to have a vehicle tested to one of these test protocols, even on vehicles which are under development and not yet at dealers, Calspan can execute such tests but utilizing crash test dummies owned by Calspan.


  • Full Frontal
  • Side Moving Deformable Barrier (MDB)
  • Side Pole

New U.S. Test Protocols:

Calspan has been assisting the NHTSA in research work for many years in support of proposed changes to test protocols. As a result, Calspan has amassed an exceptional level of skill and technical proficiency in NCAP testing, surpassing any other crash test laboratory in the world. Learn more about these test protocols.