ESC Electronic Stability Control
As covered in our April 2014 newsletter, a new law will be phased in over the next 6 years that means that Electronic Stability Control (ESC) will become mandatory for all new and used vehicles imported into New Zealand by 2020. Under the proposed timetable, ESC will be required for all new light passenger and goods vehicles from July 1, 2015.
So, it's timely that we explain a little more about it. Automotive technology has seen several major advances in the braking area since ABS brakes were first introduced back in the 80s. ABS brakes were developed to help prevent a vehicle's wheels from locking up, and this obviously helped prevent the loss of steering control. Then came traction control, which detected when a vehicle lost traction on one wheel, such as when high revs forced the wheels to suddenly slip.
ESC takes things to a whole new level. Linked to the engine control unit (ECU) installed on modern vehicles, it controls each individual wheel's tracking and its braking. A fully computerised system, it works by detecting and reducing the loss of traction (skidding). ESC intervenes only when it detects the loss of steering control, by automatically applying the brakes to help 'steer' the vehicle. The ESC applies the brakes individually to the wheels that are needed, to counter oversteer it would apply the brakes to the outer front wheel, or to deal with understeering it would apply the brakes to the inner rear wheel. And it reacts to and corrects the skid more quickly and effectively then we mortal humans could do, often before we are even aware that we might be about to lose control.
Often the first time you are even aware that the ESC has kicked in is when the dashboard indicator light and/or alert tone are activated, which just reminds you that you are driving at the limit.
It is important to note that while ESC can work on any surface, from usual tarmac, to gravel or ice, it wiill be less effective if the car has old, worn tyres or the incorrect tyres for the road's environmental condition. Nor is ESC a performance enhancement, or a replacement for safe driving practices, but rather a safety technology to assist the driver in recovering from dangerous situations.