In the first part of this series (see Electronic Stability Control - Part 1) we
looked at the background of stability control systems and how they can save you in
challenging driving conditions. In this instalment, we look at why you need it and why all manufacturers are being pressured to adopt it.
Motoring bodies are lobbying to fast-track
the availability of stability control on all new cars. Some organisations are
going a step further by pushing for mandatory adoption of the
Car safety organisation Euro NCAP (New
Car Assessment Program) has called on buyers to make sure their next car is
equipped with a stability control system. The Victorian State Coroner and
Monash University Accident Research Centre have recommended its standard fitment
in all new cars. The publicity surrounding some recent major road accidents has
also strengthened the move.
Independent studies by the American Insurance
Institute for Highway Safety confirm that stability control can reduce the
number of fatal traffic accidents by more than a third. In addition, the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) claims
that single-vehicle crashes could be reduced by up to 40 percent if all vehicles
in Victoria were fitted with stability control. This could save 50 lives a year.
At a recent motoring conference, a spokesman for
Euro NCAP targeted Toyota and Ford Australia for not offering stability control
on the newly released Yaris and Focus despite its standard fitment in other
counties. In the Australian market, stability control is offered in less than 20
percent of new cars – local manufacturers have been relatively slow to adopt the
new technology, though it is now becoming increasingly available.
In the Holden range, stability control (aka
Electronic Stability Program) is standard in the VZ series Acclaim, Adventra,
Calais, V6 Statesman/Caprice, the TS Astra convertible and Vectra CDXi. It is
not available – even as an option – in the volume selling entry-level Commodore.
However, this lack of universal availability hasn't stopped Holden trumpeted stability control's virtues. Says the company: “Electronic Stability Program (ESP), widely regarded as one of the most
significant automotive safety systems ever to come on the market, is offered for
the first time on an Australian-manufactured sedan. ESP greatly improves vehicle
safety performance in situations where the driver takes emergency action to
avoid a collision. It does this by electronically correcting vehicle paths
through brake application to individual wheels and engine torque
management. The system operates so smoothly that in most situations the
driver will not be aware it has been activated.”
In the Ford range, stability control (aka Dynamic
Stability Control) is currently available in the BF series XR6 Turbo and XR8
sedans, Fairmont Ghia, Fairlane and Territory AWD. In the base-model Territory
rear-wheel-drive, stability control is an AUD$800 extra cost option. The
Territory can lay claim to being the first Australian-built vehicle to receive
stability control – the system being calibrated in conjunction with Bosch with
testing conducted on the ice-covered lakes of Sweden, the rough gravel roads of
the Australian outback and in a variety of real-world driving tests in Germany,
Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain.
"It represents a genuine application of active
safety that has the potential to significantly improve road safety," says
Stephen Presser, Ford Vehicle Dynamics Manager.
In the large family car segment, Mitsubishi and
Toyota are the only local companies not to offer stability control – even as an
European manufacturers are undoubtedly the leaders
in adoption of stability control - the entire range of Audi, Alfa Romeo, BMW,
Mercedes-Benz and Porsche vehicles are fitted with these systems as standard.
Interestingly, the cheapest vehicle on the market with stability control is the
Smart fortwo which retails for under AUD$20,000.
A full list of vehicles
available with stability control can be found at http://www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au/index.php?page=esp_in_australia
The originator of stability control –
Mercedes-Benz – has witnessed a significant reduction in driver-related crashes
which it links to stability control system.
“If all automobiles were equipped
with the stability system, more than 20,000 serious accidents, which claim over
27,000 victims each year, could be prevented in Germany," says Dr. Thomas Weber,
head of Development at the Mercedes Car Group.
The company's in-house data also reveals a 42 percent reduction of newly
registered Mercedes models involved in driver-related accidents during
2002-2003 compared to the period 1998-1999. Stability control is considered
a major contributing factor.
In the third and final part of this series we’ll
test the world’s first aftermarket stability control adjuster – on-dash
adjustable handling is now available at your fingertips!