The Road Ahead : October November 2007
16 OCT/NOV 07 FEATURES STORY CHRIS BISHOP The car industr y and road safety exper ts are at odds over the best way to deliver an affordable vehicle safety aid that can negate skids and halve the risk of a rollover. Australia's road safety sector wants the primar y safety aid Electronic Stability Control (ESC) fitted to all cars as quickly as possible, while the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) is content to let consumer demand pace its spread. Countries with high fitment rates of ESC have recorded substantial drops in crashes, between 50 and 70 percent in the case of 4WD rollovers. It has been called the greatest life-saving technology since the seatbelt. There is consensus within the road safety community that ESC is successful in reducing overall crash risks and is most effective in single vehicle, loss of control, run-off road and rollover crashes. These types of crashes also happen to be the most severe and 4WDs, with a higher centre of gravity, are more prone to these crashes than any other vehicle. At the end of June, the FCAI estimated that around 35 percent of all new Australian vehicles were fitted with ESC, as par t of the standard equipment list. Those figures included 30.6 percent of cars and 48 percent of all new SUVs. However, ESC is rarely standard fare in the light and small car sectors or the compact and large 4WD categories. FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar said ESC had become a commonly accepted car feature. "The spread of ESC is a good example of competitive market forces and consumer demand driving the spread of new safety technology," Mr McKellar said. Law-makers in the US and Europe want ESC fitted to all cars within the next five years. Estimated American production costs for ESC are around $US111 (A$131) and European obser vers price it at around 130 Euros (A$213). It generally options in Australia for around $1000. RACQ's executive manager, automotive technology and research, Steve Spalding, said the Club wanted car companies here to improve the availability of ESC. "The RACQ wants ESC standard on vehicles but if of fered optionally, it must be af fordable, available across a model range and not linked to non- safety items," Mr Spalding said. "Motorists also need to value the impor tance of ESC. To date, safety items have generally had poor take-up rates with buyers preferring comfor t and luxur y options." Skidrow It's back to primary school for the nation's car-makers and vehicle importers. Photo Librar y HOW DOES ESC WORK? Essentially the vehicle's electronic control unit compares information from wheel speed sensors, a yaw-rate sensor and a steering wheel angle sensor to the car's actual trajector y. If it detects a potential loss of control, it can react within milliseconds to brake individual wheels and correct the path of the vehicle. ESC can also reduce engine power to help maintain control. ESC systems will not always be able to stop a crash but they can reduce the severity. WHAT'S IT CALLED? ESC goes under several acronyms, but all these systems operate on the same principle. ESP: Electronic Stability/Stabilisation Program. ESC: Electronic Stability Control. DSC: Dynamic Stability Control. VDC: Vehicle Dynamics Control. VSC: Vehicle Stability/Swer ve Control. ASC: Active Stability Control. VSA: Vehicle Stability Assist.
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