Electronic Stability Control (ESC) explained

No doubt while browsing the Perrys online magazine, you’ve noticed some of the new cars for 2010. Models such as the Citroen DS3, Vauxhall Meriva and Jaguar XJ have all arrived this year so far and plenty more are set to arrive in the coming months.

One feature of many new cars – including the Meriva and Kia’s new Sportage SUV – is electronic stability control, or ESC.

Like the anti-lock braking system (ABS) before it, ESC is becoming an essential feature in most new models of car.

According to Jean Todt, President of the eSafetyAware campaign, ESC can save your life. He said: "Cars today are much safer that they were 10-15 years ago. Now we are protected by crumple zones, seatbelts, and air bags. These systems help you when a crash happens.

"New technologies like Electronic Stability Control or ESC are now available that can help you avoid the crash from happening at all."

And AA President Edmund King commented: "Particularly in winter it is essential to avoid crashing by skidding, and ESC vehicle active safety technology is a proven life-saver in these conditions.

"We urge new car buyers to choose cars fitted with electronic stability control either as standard or as an option before other extras such as alloy wheels or iPod connections are considered."

What is ESC?

ESC technology detects loss of control via a number of sensors. The system compares steering and the direction the vehicle is facing up to 25 times a second.

If the car begins to slide out of control, the ESC works with anti-lock brake systems to correct oversteer or understeer and bring the car back under control.

Is it really that helpful?

Estimates show at least 40 per cent of fatal road accidents in Europe are as a result of skidding. A number of studies have also indicated ESC can reduce skidding by as much as 80 per cent in some models.

A recent study from Japan showed ESC decreased the accident rate of single-car accidents by about 44 per cent and that of head-on collisions by about 24 per cent.

The Department for Transport found during research into ESC, cars equipped with the technology are involved in 25% fewer fatal road accidents.

ESC and the EuroNCAP safety tests.

ESC has even been included as part of the EuroNCAP safety tests – the industry standard safety classification for all new cars. Last year, a fourth category (the others are adult occupant, child occupant and pedestrian safety) was added to the tests. The safety assist category includes technology such as ABS and ESC, and can result in a lower rating if the car does not have these systems.

For a car to receive the maximum five-star EuroNCAP rating, ESC must be offered as an option on at least 90 per cent of models.

ESC is now a technology with no drawbacks, and as costs of designing and implementing the technology fall, it will be appearing in more and more new cars.

Is ESC compulsory?

Although not a requirement yet, it is offered as standard in many new models, and as an optional extra in others.

From November 2011, ESC will be compulsory in Australia and last year, the European Parliament voted for a compulsory introduction of ESC in all new vehicles from 1 November 2014.

What else is it known as?

ESC can also be called the following, depending on the manufacturer:

  1. ASC (Automotive Stability Control);
  2. ASR (Automatic Stability Regulation);
  3. AH (Active Handling System);
  4. ASMS (Automotive Stability Management System);
  5. CBC (Cornering Brake Control);
  6. DSC (Dynamic Stability Control);
  7. EDS (Electronic Differential-lock System);
  8. DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control);
  9. ESC (Electronic Stability Control);
  10. ESP (Electronic Stability Program);
  11. ICCS (Integrated Chassis Control System);
  12. IVD (Integrated Vehicle Dynamics);
  13. PCS (Precision Control System);
  14. PSM (Porsche Stability Management);
  15. SCS (Stability Control System);
  16. StabiliTrac;
  17. STC (Stability and Traction Control System);
  18. Traxxar;
  19. VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control);
  20. VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist);
  21. VSC (Vehicle Stability Control);
  22. VSES (Vehicle Stability Enhancement System); and
  23. YCS (Yaw Control Stability).

Can I buy it for my car?

Unfortunately, ESC cannot be fitted to cars retrospectively. Esc must be specified when a new car is bought.

Which cars have ESC?

A huge variety of models now have ESC as standard or optional. The average cost of ESC as an optional extra is around £440, according to the motoring industry insurers.

For example, the Alfa Romeo 159, Ford Mondeo, Ford S-Max, Citroen C4 Picasso, Land Rover Range Rover and Vauxhall Meriva are just a few of the models with ESC fitted as standard.

Manufacturers such as Jaguar and Land Rover offer ESC as standard or as an option in every model across the range and recently, manufacturers such as Peugeot have announced upgrades to include ESC in certain model ranges – in this case the 308.

Automotive technology developer found ESC was fitted in 59 per cent of all new registered cars in the first six months of 2009 – an increase of three per cent on the previous six months.