Electronic stability control

Electronic stability control (ESC) helps you remain in control of your vehicle when you skid, swerve suddenly or when road conditions change.

About ESC

Also known as electronic stability programs (ESP), ESC builds upon features such as anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and traction control to stabilise the vehicle when it changes direction from that intended by the driver.

Why ESC?

European experts estimate that up to 40% of single vehicle crashes could be avoided if all cars had ESC. In Victoria that means 50 lives a year could be saved.

ESC considerably reduces the risk of single vehicle crashes by:

  • correcting impending oversteering or understeering
  • stabilising the vehicle during sudden evasive manoeuvres e.g. swerving
  • improving handling on gravel and unmade roads e.g. road shoulders, and
  • improving traction on slippery or icy roads.

Australian research indicates that ESC is effective in reducing single vehicle crashes by 29%.

How does ESC work?

Using a number of intelligent sensors, ESC immediately identifies when a car has deviated from the driver’s steered direction and the driver has lost control of the vehicle. As soon as impending instability, oversteering and understeering are registered, ESC stabilises the vehicle by selectively braking individual wheels and reducing engine torque to bring the vehicle back on course.

Electronic stability control diagram showing the effects of oversteering

  • Oversteer – the vehicle’s rear tries to break away towards the outside of the curve.
  • ESP then brakes the outside front wheel (red) to reduce the danger of skidding.

Electronic stability control diagram showing the effects of understeering

  • Understeer – the vehicle’s front tries to break away towards the outside of the curve.
  • ESP then brakes the inside rear wheel (red) to reduce the danger of skidding.

How is ESC different to ABS and traction control?

ESC uses components of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and traction control to stabilise the vehicle. Unlike ABS and traction control which only operate in the driving direction (longitudinal), ESC also helps the driver control sideways (lateral) movements which create instability. This makes ESC a total, holistic system that controls a car’s entire movements.

Do I need training to drive a vehicle with ESC?

No. System manufacturers say that ESC supports the driver but does not require training or changes to driving styles.

Does ESC take over control from the driver?

No. But it assists the driver to maintain control of the vehicle.

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