Electronic Stability Control (“ESC”) has been available for years, and it is a safety feature that could save lives and prevent catastrophic injuries. Some claim that ESC is as important as seatbelts in terms of protecting drivers and passengers.
ESC is a stability enhancement system designed to automatically and electronically detect dangerous driving situations and help the driver control the vehicle. The stability enhancement system is designed to improve vehicles’ lateral stability by electronically detecting and automatically assisting drivers in critical driving situations, (for example understeer and oversteer) and in adverse weather conditions, such as rain, snow, sleet, and ice. ESC systems have sensors monitoring the speed of each tire, the steering wheel position (angle), centrifugal force, and the overall yaw rate and lateral acceleration of the vehicle. Certain data from the sensors are used to compare a driver’s intended course with the vehicle’s actual movement to detect when a driver is about to lose control of a vehicle – the ESC system then automatically intervenes in fractions of seconds (microchip speed) by applying the brakes to individual wheels and can reduce engine power to provide stability and assists the driver in maintaining control and keeping the vehicle on course. For example, if a system detects that the rear wheels have begun to slide to the right and the vehicle is sliding (vehicle yaw) counter-clockwise, it may momentarily apply the brake to the right front tire, thereby inducing a clockwise spin to counteract the slide (yaw) and stabilize the vehicle. The system may then reduce the vehicle’s acceleration to a speed more appropriate for conditions.
ESC is the evolution of Antilock Brake Systems (ABS) and Traction Control Systems (TCS). ABS brakes are four-wheel systems that prevent wheel lock-up by automatically modulating the brake pressure during hard braking or an emergency stop. Traction Control Systems (TCS) are designed to address the front-to-rear loss of friction between the vehicle’s tires and the road surface while the vehicle is accelerating. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems are technological developments evolving from and incorporating the first two technologies – ABS and TCS.
Toyota’s research indicated that Electronic Stability Control reduced single-vehicle crashes in Japan by a remarkable 35 percent and head-on crashes by 30 percent. And in the European study, Mercedes-Benz, which has provided ESC as a standard feature on most vehicles since 1999, reported a 29 percent drop in single-vehicle accidents; crashes of all types fell 15 percent.
In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, analyzing data from 1997 -2002 in five States, found a 35 percent reduction in single-vehicle crash risk for cars and a 67 percent reduction for SUVs. Analyzing FARS data (Fatal Accident Reporting System – National), NHTSA’s study revealed a 30 %reduction in fatal single vehicle crashes and a 63% reduction in fatal single vehicle crashes in SUVs.
Also in the United States, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that ESC reduced fatal single vehicle crash risk approximately 56 % percent, and the risk of all single vehicle crashes (fatal and non fatal) by 41 % percent.
Together these studies indicate that widespread application of ESC could save more than 7,000 lives per year. If all vehicles on U.S. roads had ESC, it might prevent as many as 800,000 of the 2 million or so single-vehicle crashes that occur each year.
Of course, not all manufacturers label their electronic stability control systems the same, and not all ESC systems are identical. All ESC systems have similar hardware, but there are some differences in how various systems are programmed to respond once a problem or loss of control is detected.
- Vehicle Stability Assistance (VSA) (Acura)
- Electronic Stability Program (ESP) (Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Kia, Mercedes, Saab, Volkswagen)
- Dynamic Stability Control” (DSC) (BMW, Jaguar, Mazda, MINI)
- Stabilitrak (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, except Corvette (“Active Handling”), Pontiac, Saturn)
- Advance Trac (Ford, Lincoln, Mercury)
- ESC (Honda, Hyundai)
- Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) (Infiniti, Nissan)
- Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) Lexus, Toyota)
- Active Skid and Traction Control MULTIMODE TM” (Mitsubishi)
- Porsche Stability Management (Porsche)
- Vehicle Dynamic Control System (VDCS) (Subaru)
- Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC) (Volvo)
In 2001, BMW made ESC standard equipment in all of their vehicles. Mercedes made ESC standard equipment in all but one model in 2000. Some of the other manufacturers, (Acura, Audi, Infiniti, Jaguar), followed suit. However, many manufacturers offer it only as an option, and until recently others did not offer it at all. Can you imagine seatbelts offered as an option? (A salesperson at the car lot telling you: “For an additional $1200-$2000, will add seatbelts to your car”)
The Problem – Vehicles, SUVs and Trucks, Without Electronic Stability Control
ESC is a technological breakthrough. However, ESC has been “on the shelves” of the car manufacturing industry for years, in spite of its feasibility and availability. If you or your loved ones have been killed or severely injured in an accident, such as a rollover, and the vehicle was manufactured after the industry had this technology, you may have a case against the manufacturer.
- Electronic stability control has been available at least since the early to mid 1990’s. Automobile manufacturers have, until very recently, simply left this technology “on the shelf.”
- For example speed, yaw sense, roll sense, steering angle input, longitudinal and lateral G-force sensors, vertical G-force sensors, etc.