Everybody hates TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) and developers of braking technology have to be some of the worst offenders. So let’s take the mystery out of braking system jargon.
ABS (Anti-Lock Brake System)
A tyre grips best when the wheel is rolling. Without ABS when you brake hard, the wheel stops turning and steering is compromised. ABS has sensors in the wheels that detect when you brake hard. The wheel locks and then the ABS momentarily releases and instantly re-applies the brakes to keep the wheel on the threshold of locking. It does this around 15 times a second. This gives the driver maximum steering during braking. ABS is particularly good on wet slippery roads as it reduces braking distances. The sensation of ABS can be disconcerting. Just keep pushing the brake pedal as hard as you can until you have steered out of trouble. Why not test your ABS in controlled conditions, so that when you need it you will know what to expect?
ESC (Electronic Stability Control)
Also known as VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), ESP (Electronic Stability Program), VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist), ESC piggy backs on the ABS system, using the ABS sensors and other components to detect when the vehicle is starting to slide. It then de-powers the engine and applies the brakes to individual wheels to bring the vehicle back under control. ESC can process and correct in milliseconds, faster than human intervention and with accuracy that is quite astounding. It represents a substantial step towards intelligent crash avoidance technology along with other safety technologies such as air bags, pre-tensioning seat belts, active headrests, roll over detection and lane change detection.
BA (Brake Assist) monitors how quickly the brake pedal is pressed, to determine if the driver is panic braking. When it detects this it instantly boosts the brake pressure to the maximum and holds it there as long as the driver has their foot on the brake pedal to give the shortest braking distance.
EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) manages the front to rear brake pressure balance so that conditions such as cornering with an uneven load or rough road surfaces does not cause the brakes to lock and require the ABS to manage the locked wheel.
TCS (Traction Control System) monitors when one wheel is spinning faster than the other wheels under acceleration. It then de-powers the engine or uses the brakes to grab the spinning wheel or a combination of both to restore tyre grip and traction.
RSC (Roll Stability Control) uses roll sensors to measure the angle of the body and when it tilts beyond a critical angle it de-powers the engine while at the same time severely applying the brakes to one side of the car to induce under-steer to pull that side of car back around and allow it to come back on all four wheels.