< Safety Issues
DOT Proposes Anti-Rollover Technology for New Vehicles
A new proposal to require auto manufacturers to install electronic stability control (ESC) as a standard feature on all new passenger vehicles has the potential to save more than 10,000 lives every year, the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced today.
The proposed rule, announced today, would require all manufacturers to begin equipping passenger vehicles under 10,000 pounds with ESC starting with
the 2009 model year and to have the feature available as standard equipment on all vehicles by the 2012 model year (September 2011).
ESC systems use automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels to help the
driver maintain control in situations where a vehicle without ESC would skid out of control and likely leave the road. Nearly all rollover crashes occur after a vehicle leaves the road. A 2004 study by NHTSA estimated that ESC
reduced fatalities in single-vehicle crashes by 30 percent for passenger cars and 63 percent for SUVs.
NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason called electronic stability control for cars "the greatest life saving improvement
since the safety belt."
The agency estimates that ESC will save between 5,300 and 10,300 lives annually and prevent between 168,000 and 252,000 injuries. ESC will prevent between 4,200 and 5,400 of the more than 10,000
deaths that occur each year as a result of rollover crashes.
According the NHTSA's proposed regulation, the average cost is estimated to be $111 per vehicle on vehicles that already include ABS brakes.
NHTSA has urged manufacturers to voluntarily add ESC as standard equipment on vehicles. As a result, almost 29 percent of all 2006 models - 57 percent of SUVs - are already equipped with ESC.
Electronic Stability Control
Available in many new cars, this technology helps drivers maintain control of their vehicle during extreme steering maneuvers by keeping the vehicle headed in the driver's intended direction, even when the
vehicle nears or exceeds the limits of road traction.
When drivers attempt an extreme maneuver (for example, to avoid a crash or because a curve's severity has been misjudged), they may experience unfamiliar vehicle
handling characteristics as the vehicle nears the limits of road traction. The result is a loss of control. This loss usually results in either the rear of the vehicle "spinning out," or the front of the vehicle
"plowing out." (See links below.)
A professional driver, with sufficient road traction, could maintain control in an extreme maneuver by using various techniques, such as countersteering (momentarily turning
away from the intended direction). It would be unlikely, however, for an average driver to properly apply countersteering techniques in a panic situation to regain vehicle control.
How ESC Works
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) uses automatic braking of individual wheels to prevent the heading from changing too quickly (spinning out) or not quickly enough (plowing out). ESC cannot increase the
available traction, but maximizes the possibility of keeping the vehicle under control and on the road during extreme maneuvers by using the driver's natural reaction of steering in the intended direction.
ESC happens so
quickly that drivers do not perceive the need for steering corrections. If drivers do brake because the curve is more or less sharp than anticipated, the system is still capable of generating uneven braking if necessary to
correct the heading.
ESC systems exist under many trade names, including Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Electronic Stability Program (ESP), and Vehicle Stability Enhancement (VSE).