According to CNN, a new traffic safety study shows the number of crash deaths in the US can go down. In that case, all vehicles have to have a feature known as Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Approximately half of the traffic accident deaths in the US are from single vehicle crashes. Basically, in this type of accident, the driver loses control. With annual traffic deaths approaching 34,000 the study suggests that over 11,000 people per year would be spared their lives by the use of this technology.
ESC corrects for the driver’s mistakes, as the vehicle becomes uncontrollable. The website explains that ESC is an extension of antilock brake technology, which has speed sensors and independent braking for each wheel. For ESC, additional sensors continuously monitor how well a vehicle is responding to a driver’s steering input. These sensors detect when a vehicle is about to stray from the driver’s intended line of travel (that is, lose control), which usually occurs in high-speed manoeuvres or on slippery roads.
ESC will not activate in situations that lead to minor “fender-bender” accidents. The technology responds only in the rare situation where the sensors find the vehicle is in a pre-defined profile suggesting that it is well beyond the driver’s skills to cope with the crisis. This is a technology of last-resort, something like the airbag. No one wants to lose control of their vehicle, but sometimes, automatic mechanical assistance may be greatly accepted as a life-saver.
ESC technology has been on the market as a feature for new cars, for the past several years. Audi, Mercedes, and Volkswagen refer to the feature as “Electronic Stability Program”. BMW and Jaguar call it “Dynamic Stability Control”. Lexus and Toyota refer to “Vehicle Stability Control”. Cadillac uses the term “StabiliTrak”. Chevrolet calls it “Active Handling”, Volvos incorporates “Dynamic Stability and Traction Control” while Acura has “Vehicle Stability Assist”.
For 2006, ESC is standard on 40% of vehicles and is an option on another 15%. If offered as a stand-alone option, the feature costs from approximately $400 to $1000.
Automobile manufacturers provide ESC equipment with the same purpose, but with differing capabilities from vehicle to vehicle. Some systems activate earlier in the “loss of control” process. Some provide more rapid deceleration than others. There is not much reliable information to say which manufacturer has best implemented this technology.
What is clear is that ESC is being pushed to soon become standard equipment on all new vehicles. Simply put by a report of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: “very few safety technologies show this kind of effect in reducing crash deaths.” General Motors has committed to make ESC standard on all its vehicles by 2010. But Hyundai has the feature as standard on almost all of its vehicles at the present time and has reportedly encouraged a government requirement for ESC.
Given the competition between automakers, expect to see an almost universal implementation of ESC on new vehicles, within the next two years.
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