The world's safest car revealed

The Volvo XC90.
The Volvo XC90. Photo credit: Getty

A vehicle safety testing firm has named the Volvo XC90 the safest car ever made.

Since its launch in 2002, not a single driver or passenger in an XC90 has died, according to Thatcham Research - despite 50,000 of them sold worldwide.

The only other car with a remotely similar safety record is the Audi Q7, says Thatcham, but was only sale for two years - 2015 and 2016. 

The secret of the XC90's success is that it was one of the first cars to have Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), which uses radars to warn drivers of impending collisions. If the driver doesn't respond, the car hits the brakes on its own.

"AEB is definitely reducing crash frequency. No question about it," Matthew Avery, research director at Thatcham, told BBC News.

"It's got the potential to reduce many more crashes, as this technology gets better."

The Volvo XC90.
The Volvo XC90. Photo credit: Getty

Thatcham called it the most significant development in car safety since the seatbelt, which first appeared in cars in the 1950s.

AEB is now standard in many new vehicles, and there are moves around the world to make it mandatory in all new cars. It's even been suggested AEB could prevent terror attacks using vehicles as weapons like the ones in Nice and London.

An attack in Berlin in late 2016 involving a semi-trailer killed 12 people, but it could have been more. Investigators said the truck's AEB system stopped it after it had travelled about 70m, potentially saving dozens of lives.

Studies have shown vehicles with AEB crash about 38 percent less than those without, The Telegraph reports. Insurance on AEB vehicles is repotedly often cheaper too.

Volvo is expected to have all its cars electric-only from next year.