ABS, Traction control, ESP - What's next.
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  1. #1
    XTC
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    ABS, Traction control, ESP - What's next.

    There is already cruise control systems that keep your car a safe distance from the one in front. What's next ? Auto pilot ?

    Corner by ESP
    By Bill McKinnon
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Monday August 4 2003

    It's been described as being as critical to automotive safety as seat belts and airbags, but it remains a rarity -- and has its detractors. Bill McKinnon gives the low-down on the Electronic Stability Program.
    Imagine driving into a corner too fast, losing traction and thinking, "I'm in big trouble".

    Not so long ago, you were all on your own. Now, almost before you have time to scream, today's driver assistance technology can analyse the problem and, without you doing a thing, take control of the car and use the various systems on the car to compensate for your mistakes.

    It can brake the four wheels -- automatically and individually -- to help the car regain its course and give you the best possible chance of staying on the road.

    Mercedes-Benz, a pioneer of many important safety features, is a vigorous advocate of such systems, best know as ESP or ASP, for Electronic or Automatic Stability Programs. The German giant claims that, in the next 15-20 years, road accidents could be halved if vehicles were fitted "with appropriate driver assistance systems".

    Anti-lock brakes, introduced in 1978, were the first real form of driver assistance technology aimed at helping to prevent crashes, rather than, like airbags, minimising injury in a crash.

    They are now available, as standard or as an option, on most new cars in Australia.

    In recent years, the electronics that control ABS have been refined to include traction control, which distributes braking force to individual wheels depending upon their state of grip, and emergency full power assist, which automatically applies maximum braking when sensors detect high pedal pressures.

    The latter counters the risk of drivers being too timid with the pedal to avoid a crash.

    ABS, as further developed by some manufacturers, will take over completely from the driver when the car starts to skid in a corner.

    This usually happens in one of two ways. The driver enters the corner too fast and, as he attempts to steer the car, the front wheels lose traction and the car continues straight ahead instead of turning. This is called understeer.

    The second scenario sees our driver in similar strife but, in braking and turning the wheel, weight transfer causes the rear of the car to lose traction and swing sideways. This is oversteer.

    In extreme cases, the consequences are not pretty. You run off the road, front or rear first; if you don't know how to correct oversteer, you end up with the car fishtailing wildly and possibly into oncoming traffic.

    Mercedes-Benz, Saab, BMW, Audi, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar and Volvo now fit most or all of their Australian market cars with ABS-based systems to monitor the cars' overall stability and correct understeer and oversteer.

    If either end of the car becomes unstable, the ABS automatically activates on the inside wheels (mainly the front) to correct understeer or the outside wheels (mainly the rear) to correct oversteer, effectively straightening the car. Engine power is usually cut.

    If you are going so fast that centrifugal force completely overcomes tyre grip, no amount of technology can keep you pointing in the desired direction.

    In Australia, the top-of-the-line Holden Vectras and Astras have stability control -- the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) developed by German firm Bosch and also used on Mercedes-Benzes. The Vectra and Astra come from Holden's European affiliate, Opel.

    Stability control is not available on the four local sedans: Commodore, Falcon, Magna and Camry.

    According to the sort of official leaks for which Ford is famous, Ford's Territory 4WD wagon will be the first local car to include the device when it goes on sale early next year. It will follow in the Falcon eventually.

    A Holden spokesperson, asked when stability control would be available on the Commodore, told Drive: "We're at the forefront of local safety engineering, and we are always looking at improvements for the Commodore." That's code for "I can't tell you when, but it will happen."

    Presumably it is not too far away on Commodore and/or Statesman. It doesn't seem to make sense that Holden would include it on the Vectra, yet not on its locally built flagships.

    In four-wheel-drive territory, the Mitsubishi Pajero has stability control as an option on most variants and as standard on the Exceed; Toyota's range-topping Prado Grande also has stability control.

    Among small cars, the new Smart, the Mercedes-Benz A Class and a few other premium models are fitted with stability control. Volkswagen doesn't provide it on its Australian market small cars, the Polo and Golf, but it is available on these models in Europe and North America.

    "We have stability control on our powerful models like the Passat and Bora V6," said VW spokesman Brad Leach, "but the extra cost on the Golf and Polo, plus the fact that Australian weather and road conditions are usually kinder than those in Europe, mean that on these small cars it is not really necessary here."

    He has a point. On dry, adhesive bitumen, stability control is usually only activated by foolish driving; specifically, entering a corner at excessive speed -- if Australians were taught to drive properly in the first place, it would be at least partly redundant.

    In a European winter, however, ESP is useful nearly every time you drive. Ice and snow make a quick trip to the shops extremely hazardous -- through no great fault of the driver, a car can easily become unstable at walking pace.

    Locally, stability control is certainly useful in the wet and on dirt roads, which are common outside metropolitan areas.

    On BMW's X5, stability control is a worthwhile safety feature. It quickly and conspicuously corrects minor instability on dirt before it becomes a major problem.

    In a package, 4WD and stability control are as good as it gets in terms of technology-based vehicle control assistance for the driver. When a car is so equipped, you really have to try very hard, or experience complete brain fade, to get into trouble.

    Holden would do well to consider such a package on its coming Commodore derivative, the Adventra 4WD. This would make the car more competent while adding credibility to its pitch as a sophisticated home-grown product ideally suited to Australian road conditions.

    The reluctance of Australian makers to fit stability control on their models is difficult to understand, given that a local company is involved in the design and manufacture of components for such systems.

    Bosch Australia, an integral part of the global Bosch Group, is involved in pioneering automotive electronics work and leads the development and production of automotive on-board electronics.

    It makes steering wheel angle sensors, a component of Bosch's stability control system, which is used widely by overseas car makers.

    A 2002 analysis of crash data by Germany's Federal Statistical Office found the number of newly registered Mercedes-Benz cars involved in accidents fell by 15 percent between 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. The average for other makes was about 11 percent.

    Mercedes attributes this result largely to universal fitment of ESP to its range. Its head of passenger car development, Dr Hans Joachim Schopf, says ESP is "as significant to the improvement of road safety as ABS, seat belts and airbags".

    In the insurance industry, however, there is still uncertainty about stability control technology.

    NRMA Insurance is researching its impact on claims -- and the experience with ABS brakes has not been positive.

    "The industry had high hopes that ABS would reduce crashes, but so far the results just haven't been there," says Robert McDonald, the insurer's head of industry research.

    "People who drive cars with ABS often lift their safety threshold and expect it to save them. Stability control may produce the same attitude -- people may just use it as a tool to corner quicker.

    "If that is the case, all they'll end up doing is raising the speed at which they have an accident."

    Off skid row
    Germany leads the way on stability control -- which was fitted to an astonishing 49 percent of new cars sold in Germany last year. The figure in most Western European countries was slightly lower; in the rest of the world it was just 6 percent.

    Strong case
    Studies in Europe by Mercedes-Benz show that vehicles fitted with stability control were 29 percent less likely to be involved in single-vehicle crashes. Toyota figures suggest a 35 percent improvement, according to Automotive News.

    American ideal
    The US National Transportation Safety Board has called for extensive investigations into stability systems. If real-world crash data backs up the claim they can help drivers maintain control, it says, legislation should require their use on cars and trucks alike.

    But wait, there's more
    Stability systems share many components with the interlinked ABS and traction control. According to leading producer Bosch, the next step is likely to be all-inclusive "driving control systems" including automatic park brakes and adaptive cruise control.

    Advertisement


    Looking beyond ESP
    By Bob Jennings and Chris Gable

    The next big step forward from electronic stability control is active steering, which can "add or subtract" steering inputs to help the driver retain control of an errant vehicle.

    The next big step forward from electronic stability control is active steering, which can "add or subtract" steering inputs to help the driver retain control of an errant vehicle.

    There is only so much that can be done by braking individual wheels and adjusting power, says GM's manager of advanced chassis technology development, Tom Zebehazy.

    Under some circumstances, a better way to bring a skidding vehicle back under control is by counter-steering, he says.

    However, active steering used in tandem with electronic stability control can make a marked improvement. Active steering, sharing the information processed for stability control, calculates the speed differences of the wheels and senses variations in sideways movement (called yaw).

    Zebehazy was involved in the development of an earlier steering system called Quadrasteer, which steers the rear wheels electronically. Now in production, it is designed to improve low-speed manoeuvrability and high-speed stability.

    However, the active steering works only on the front wheels and relies on the latest electrically assisted power steering systems.

    It would be even more effective with a "steer by wire" system (which does away with the conventional mechanical links between steering column and wheels) whereby the car's computer could "dial in" direction changes without the driver being aware of them.

    Zebehazy says active steering is "still a few years away" but will will be able to steer the vehicle, completely and independently, if the driver loses control.

    "The ultimate goal," he says, "is to merge several electronic controls in order to provide the ultimate in security; a vehicle using sophisticated sensors and systems that constantly monitor the driving environment and, when the situation turns foul, actively guide the vehicle to avoid an accident."

    At GM's test track in Detroit recently, Drive tested a "mule", a front-drive Pontiac Grand Prix, with a part-developed active steering system that gathers information on yaw, steering wheel angle and acceleration to run continuous calcuations on how the car is behaving.

    On a standard rapid-swerve-and-recover test, the Pontiac slewed left and right with the system off -- the sort of action that leads to cars going off the road shoulder or into oncoming traffic.

    With the system turned on, the reaction to the manoeuvre was crisper, and there was no fishtailing. Similarly on a wet section of track, in the middle of a violent manoeuvre, the car was more stable -- yet the outside assistance on the steering was not obvious.

    Not everyone is convinced.

    "Auto engineers would do a lot better if they did away with the idea of electronic over-riding of the driver, and instead paid more attention to using the marvellous array of human reflexes in the matter of steering their cars," says acclaimed Australian engineer Arthur Bishop.

    He is one of the world's foremost authorities on automotive steering systems -- one in every five power-steered cars uses some aspect of Bishop's technology.

    He believes electronics serve the driver well in anti-lock brakes and fuel-injection systems, but should play only a limited role in steering. The problem is greatest with large 4WDs -- as he says in his just-launched biography, Driven By Ideas (Clare Brown, UNSW Press) -- whose designers were "required to meet the conflicting demands of a boudoir on wheels and an army tank".

    "The knee-jerk reaction has been to install a computer ... to take over from the driver when the stability is threatened," he told Drive. "Surely a more rigorous approach in the design of the suspension, steering gear and tyres is all that is required."
    You're not fooling everyone, or did you forget? .......




    '02 Peugeot 206 GTi / '07 VW Golf GTI
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    AF'd in PER, MEL, SYD, ADL, CBR

  2. #2
    1000+ Posts Rod Hagen's Avatar
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    The Peugeot 406 SV sedans, wagons and coupé (as well as the 607) have ESP. All of the current 307's and 406's have Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBFD) and Emergency Brake assist (EBA) .

    Peugeot's Urban Drive Control system also involved a fair amount of pioneering work on proximity detectors etc, as well as other automated control systems. (see <a href="http://www.peugeot-avenue.com/innovation/en/secu_udc_tec.htm)" target="_blank">http://www.peugeot-avenue.com/innovation/en/secu_udc_tec.htm)</a>

    Funny how the French always seem to get left out of these sorts of articles.

    Cheers

    Rod
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    XTC
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    Rod Hagen:
    The Peugeot 406 SV sedans, wagons and coupé (as well as the 607) have ESP. All of the current 307's and 406's have Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBFD) and Emergency Brake assist (EBA) .
    The 206GTi has ABS and EBFD and the new GTi180 also has ESP. Yep they seem to forget.

    - XTC206 -
    You're not fooling everyone, or did you forget? .......




    '02 Peugeot 206 GTi / '07 VW Golf GTI
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    AF'd in PER, MEL, SYD, ADL, CBR

  4. #4
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    Active steering is definitely going to debut in the next BMW 5 series, so it's not as far off as the GM guy reckons. It will actually take over if you lose it, apparently, and can correct your steering against your mistaken attempts at regaining control.

    Stuey


    2003 PEUGEOT 206 GTi

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    Fellow Frogger! Paul Smith's Avatar
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    And the some of the first road test 5-Series with active steering had all sorts of strange things happen - they went into limp-home mode all the time - the steering wheel would not point straight ahead when the car was eek! and other oddities - if BMW can't get it right I would be really worried about anyone else!

    Paul
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    Sense Pug307's Avatar
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    Rod Hagen:
    The Peugeot 406 SV sedans, wagons and coupé (as well as the 607) have ESP. All of the current 307's and 406's have Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBFD) and Emergency Brake assist (EBA) .

    Peugeot's Urban Drive Control system also involved a fair amount of pioneering work on proximity detectors etc, as well as other automated control systems. (see <a href="http://www.peugeot-avenue.com/innovation/en/secu_udc_tec.htm)" target="_blank">http://www.peugeot-avenue.com/innovation/en/secu_udc_tec.htm)</a>

    Funny how the French always seem to get left out of these sorts of articles.

    Cheers

    Rod
    Bear in mind, they're actually German systems

    The high takeup of ESP in Germany doesn't surprise me at all, it's a marketing necessity post A-Class meets Mr Moose Apart from the absolute bargain basement models, it's standard fit on the Peugeot range. I think it's a good feature - in many cars you can turn it off anyway. I suspect for most people, it's a good thing. Most of us don't have racing driver skill.

    Apparently one of the real benefits of ESP is on ice and snow, I haven't been able to try a stability control system in such circumstances, but a friend in Germany tells me it works like magic on an S-Class in the ice.

    I guess for the money, you'd hope it'd do something well

    Peugeot 307 XS 1.6
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    Stuey:
    Active steering is definitely going to debut in the next BMW 5 series, so it's not as far off as the GM guy reckons. It will actually take over if you lose it, apparently, and can correct your steering against your mistaken attempts at regaining control.

    Stuey
    Also consider brake by wire - now starring in your E-Class.

    I have no real problems with fly by wire in aircraft, but airliners are multi million dollar machines better maintained than most cars. They have much more redundancy than cars too. Plus, when you pay that price, the quality is somewhat better.

    Having experienced the pleasures of a drive by wire throttle tell it's drive "you may drive no faster than 15km/h whilst turning across a road", I have a few quibbles with some systems in cars.

    Peugeot 307 XS 1.6
    Aussiefrogged in MEL, PER, SYD, BNE & ADL.
    Rendezvous Adelaide 2005

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    You can turn it off in Renaults fitted with ESP. I drove for extended periods on windy roads in shitty Irish/English weather with ESP off in my (European) Renault Scenic and *to be honest* couldn't notice any difference.

    Turning it off lit up a *bright* light on the dash of a car sliding off the road. Lovely.

    The only thing I did notice was having ESP switched off also switched off traction control and with all that diesel torque as the boost in a Renault DCi engine comes on... whistle

    Derek.

    <small>[ 06 August 2003, 11:17 PM: Message edited by: DeKa ]</small>

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