What is Electronic Stability Control?

Let’s start with a fairly sobering statistic. At least 40 per cent of fatal road accidents are caused by drivers losing control of their vehicle, and skidding into something – or someone – else.

In the late 1980s BMW and Mercedes – in collaboration with Bosch – developed a system to reduce this type of accident by reducing loss of control in these situations. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) has been proven to reduce such accidents by up to 35 per cent. Considering it might save your life one day, the polite thing to do would be to get to know it a little better. We explain all…

The techy stuff

ESC combines two other systems, ABS and traction control – working them together to improve handling stability whatever the situation. ABS and traction control already use wheel-speed sensors, and ESC adds a yaw sensor, a steering wheel angle sensor, and a lateral acceleration sensor to calculate whether or not the car is sliding, from which corner, and by how much.

BMW developed the first ESC systems with Mercedes and Bosch

By combining the data from these sensors, the ESC system then determines what needs to be done to bring the car back into line when it skids. Individual wheels can be braked, and power can be limited to the driven wheels to correct any unwanted sliding that might occur. The system reacts instantly, and with far greater accuracy than even a professional driver can achieve.

Does my car have stability control?

If you’re buying a brand new car, then there is a very likely chance of it. Based on Euro NCAP’s latest ratings, any car scoring a five-star rating needs ESC fitted to at least 90 per cent of the range, and for it to be optionally available on the rest.

The system is known by various acronyms, and below is a list explaining how the major manufacturers refers to their versions:

DSC – BMW, Mazda
DSTC – Volvo
ESP – Audi, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Mercedes, Peugeot, Renault, SEAT, Skoda, Vauxhall, Volkswagen
VCD – Nissan, Subaru
VSA –Honda

All of these systems operate in much the same way. The statistics don’t lie, and whatever you want to call it, we’d strongly recommend you check to see if your next car is equipped with ESC.