questions - call us toll free

What is an Electronic Stability Program?

An Electronic Stability Program, also called Electronic Stability Control, is one of the key safety features found in many of today's new cars. Developed in Germany in the late 20th Century, the advancement is credited with saving thousands of lives. Auto experts can explain in great detail the finer points of ESC and why it's so amazing - but non-motor heads can appreciate the technology as well. Antilock brakes (ABS), traction control and Electronic Stability Control are commonly considered the three building blocks in today's automobile braking systems:

  • ABS eliminates brakes from locking
  • Traction control prevents a driver from giving too much acceleration, which can cause wheels to spin freely
  • ESC increases traction during times when there's potential for side-skidding

In short, ESC keeps your car going the direction you want it to - and prevents drivers from over-correcting when they encounter problems. The system can prevent rollovers, accidents on icy roads, and other accidents. A car equipped with ESC works with ABS and traction-control systems to regulate braking and acceleration. While ESC was previously a feature found in only high-end vehicles, it is becoming more and more common. Today, vehicles of all prices can feature the system. Soon, it won't be a choice at all: Beginning in 2012, all cars sold in the United States were required to feature ESC.

Background of the Technology

Several different auto manufacturers had a part in developing various types of advanced features. Today, the feature is considered one of the best advancements in automobile safety. The process of developing the technology began decades ago. Here are some of the landmarks along the way of establishing ESC as a common safety feature:

  • 1959: Mercedes-Benz patents a device that intervenes at the engine, transmission or brakes to prevent wheels from spinning.
  • 1987: Mercedes-Benz develops a Traction Control System that works during both braking and accelerating. BMW and Toyota also work on similar systems.
  • 1990: Mitsubishi releases the Diamante in Japan, which includes a traction system that was electronically controlled. The system eventually developed into what we now know as Active Skid and Traction Control (ASTC). Mitsubishi's system automatically regulated acceleration and breaking under varying road surfaces. The system was considered revolutionary.
  • 1987-1992: Mercedes-Benz and Robert Bosch GmbH developed ESC for lateral slippage, which was more advanced than the Mitsubishi system.
  • 1992: Bosh works with BMW and develops a ESC-like system for the entire 1992 model line.
  • 1995: Other manufacturers begin to develop their own varieties.
  • 2012: All vehicles sold in the United States must have some form of ESC.

Why this is a vital component

ESC is credited as one of the most vital advances in automotive safety - some say it's the most important auto-safety creation since the seat belt. In fact, automobile experts strongly recommend purchasing a car equipped with ESC. The statistics explain why. Studies across the world agree that it is extremely helpful in assisting drivers control the cars they drive and as a result, saving lives. According to studies done by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration in 2004, the existence of ESC has reduced crashes by 35 percent. Sport-utility vehicles that have ESC are involved in 67 percent fewer accidents than their non-ESC counterparts. And a 2006 study completed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) stated that 10,000 crash-related fatalities each year could be avoided if all vehicles had ESC. The study also concluded that ESC reduces the chance of a fatal crash by 43 percent, fatal single-vehicle crashes by 56 percent, and single-vehicle fatal rollovers by nearly 80 percent. The IIHS now requires vehicles to be equipped with ESC to be designated a "top safety pick."

Featured Articles