ESP high achiever

The most im­por­tant ac­tive ve­hi­cle safety de­vice, the Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity Pro­gram or ESP, marks 15 years of ser­vice, re­ports NICK DAL­TON.

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

THE sys­tem, once only avail­able on ex­pen­sive cars, is now fit­ted to nearly two thirds of passenger cars and sedans on the Aus­tralian mar­ket.

Ear­lier this month the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment an­nounced all passenger ve­hi­cles and SUVs must have the de­vice as stan­dard equip­ment by Novem­ber 2011.

It was 15 years ago that MercedesBenz pre­sented ESP, a sys­tem jointly de­vel­oped with Bosch in Swe­den in March, 1994. The launch ve­hi­cle was the Mercedes-Benz S 600 coupé and a few months later it ap­peared in the S-Class sa­loon ( W 140) and the SL road­ster ( R 129).

But the hon­our of be­ing equipped with the sys­tem in large unit num­bers went to the A-Class. In re­sponse to the “moose test” dur­ing which an A-Class tipped over, it was equipped with ESP as stan­dard from Fe­bru­ary 1998. By Au­gust 1999 it was stan­dard on al­most all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars.

ESP re­duces the risk of skid­ding on cor­ner­ing and main­tains the ve­hi­cle’s di­rec­tional sta­bil­ity even in crit­i­cal con­di­tions, for ex­am­ple on black ice or wet road sur­faces.

It in­creases ve­hi­cle safety by se­lec­tively brak­ing in­di­vid­ual wheels, thus coun­ter­act­ing the ten­dency to skid in crit­i­cal han­dling sit­u­a­tions and al­low­ing the driver to main­tain con­trol.

Over­steer is cor­rected by ap­ply­ing brake to the front outer wheel, un­der­steer by ap­ply­ing brake to the rear in­ner wheel. ESP also can curb en­gine out­put to re­duce ve­hi­cle speed.

In March 1994 two MercedesBenz test cars per­formed cir­cuits on frozen Lake Hornovan. One main­tained di­rec­tional sta­bil­ity around the oval cir­cuit, but the driver of the sec­ond car clearly had prob­lems keep­ing on track.

The car’s rear end re­peat­edly swung out on the ice, re­quir­ing the driver to ap­ply op­po­site lock and ac­cel­er­ate again.

Th­ese ma­noeu­vres were closely watched from the edge of the cir­cuit by jour­nal­ists from all over the world.

They were wit­ness­ing the world pre­miere of a mile­stone in au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy, jointly de­vel­oped by Mercedes-Benz and Robert Bosch GmbH. The test car with good di­rec­tional sta­bil­ity was, of course, equipped with the ac­tive safety sys­tem ESP.

The anti-lock brake sys­tem (ABS) smoothed the way for ESP. ABS made its de­but in 1978 in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Just a few years later came ac­cel­er­a­tion slip reg­u­la­tion (ASR, se­ries launch 1981), an ad­vanced de­vel­op­ment of ABS de­signed to con­trol the in­ter­play of lon­gi­tu­di­nal forces be­tween tyres and road sur­face not only dur­ing brak­ing, but for the first time also dur­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Then came the au­to­matic lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial (ASD, 1985) and the in­no­va­tive 4MATIC per­ma­nent four­wheel drive sys­tem (1985).

Lake Hornovan, Swe­den, 1994: One Mercedes-Benz is fit­ted with ESP, the other is not.

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