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Electronic Stability Control

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) helps drivers to avoid crashes by reducing the danger of skidding, or losing control as a result of over-steering. ESC becomes active when a driver loses control of their car. It uses computer controlled technology to apply individual brakes and help bring the car safely back on track, without the danger of fish-tailing.

Why do I need it?

Australian research shows that ESC reduces the risk of:

  • Single car crashes by 25%
  • Single 4WD crashes by 51%
  • Single car crashes in which the driver was injured by 28%
  • Single 4WD crashes in which the driver was injured by 66%*

No other active safety device has such potential to reduce single car crashes. In 2016 41 lives lost on Victorian roads could have been saved if the vehicle involved was fitted with ESC.***

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) example

How does ESC work?

ESC works by using a number of intelligent sensors that detect any loss of control and automatically apply the brake to the relevant wheel, putting your car back on the intended path.

ESC is of assistance to the driver in:

  • correcting impending oversteering or understeering;
  • stabilising the car during sudden evasive manoeuvres;
  • enhancing handling on gravel patches, such as road shoulders; and
  • improving traction on slippery or icy roads.

Not all ESC systems are identical. The hardware is similar, but there are variations in how ESC systems are programmed to respond once loss of control is detected.

Naturally, the degree of effectiveness of ESC is dependent upon the amount of traction between the road and the car. Therefore on a car with old, worn or inappropriate tyres (eg: non winter tyres on ice and snow), ESC will be less effective than on a car with new tyres or tyres specific to a road environmental condition. 

How popular is ESC?

ESC technology is being adopted rapidly by Australian manufacturers and importers – particularly as Victoria has mandated that all new cars registered from January 2011  must be fitted with ESC. This mandate came into effect almost one year ahead of the rest of Australia and also Europe and America. Fitment of ESC has grown enormously since 2004, with the fitment rate increasing from around 12% in 2004 to 76% in early 2011. The highest rate of ESC fitment is in Sweden with a fitment rate of around 96%. Before you choose your next car, be sure to look for models with ESC.

Is ESC different to Antilock Braking (ABS) and Traction Control?

ABS and Traction control are integral components of an ESC system.  Whilst every car with ESC has ABS and Traction Control, those with ABS and Traction control do not necessarily have ESC.  ABS and Traction Control only work in the driving (longitudinal) direction. ESC can help drivers to cope with sideways (lateral) movements which create instability. Unlike ABS and Traction Control, ESC is a holistic system that can control a car’s entire movements.

Do I need training to drive a car with ESC?

No. Those who manufacture these systems say that ESC supports the driver but does not require changes to skill levels or driving styles.

Are there different names for ESC?

Yes. Some of the names that we know about in Australia are:

  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP) - Holden, HSV, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes Benz, Jeep, Renault, Saab, Chrysler, Citroen, Peugeot, Ssangyong
  • Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) - Ford, FPV, BMW, Mazda, Land Rover,  Jaguar
  • Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) - Suzuki, Toyota
  • Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC)- Nissan, Subaru, Alfa Romeo
  • Dynamic Stability And Traction Control (DSTC)- Volvo
  • Electronic Stabilisation Program (ESP) - Audi, Volkswagen
  • Active Stability Control (ASC) - Mitsubishi
  • Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA)- Honda
  • Vehicle Stability/Swerve Control (VSC) - Lexus
  • Automatic Stability Control + Traction (ASC+T) - Mini
  • Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) - Dodge, Skoda
  • Maserati Stability Program (MSP)- Maserati
  • Porsche Stability Management - Porsche
  • Stability and Traction Control - Fiat

Can ESC affect my resale value?

European Research shows that ESC can contribute to reducing a car’s depreciation. New cars purchased now with ESC will assist in the resale of that car in the future. It is anticipated that after the European Union mandate for ESC which begins in September 2011, that it will become increasingly difficult to resell a car without ESC**.

ESC mandation for new cars

From 1 January 2011, all newly registered vehicles in Victoria must be fitted with ESC. This requirement applies to all passenger cars, off-road passenger vehicles, and forward-control passenger vehicles (e.g. passenger vans) with a compliance/identification plate date of 01/11 or after.

*Scully, J., & Newstead, S. (2007) Preliminary evaluation of electronic stability control effectiveness in Australasia. Monash University Accident Research Centre, Report No. 271

**Bosch, Safe Driving: ESP and the UK Fleet Market


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