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What Is ESP: Electronic Stability Programme Guide

What Is ESP: Electronic Stability Programme Guide

Modern technology means it’s harder than ever to crash your car, and one of the major contributors to this is the Electronic Stability Programme.

Electronic Stability Programme, also known as ESP, was one of the first, and most effective, safety systems aimed at preventing accidents happening in the first place, rather than just reducing the severity of injuries, like airbags or seatbelts do.

But what is ESP in a car, and how does it work? Read on to find out more details about the Electronic Stability Programme.

What is ESP in a car?

The Electronic Stability Programme is a computerised safety and technology tool in all modern cars. Since 2014, every new car sold throughout Europe must have an ESP system, as it has been widely proven to save lives in road traffic accidents. Research undertaken in the UK indicates that your chances of being involved in a fatal crash are reduced by 25% with ESP. 

The Electronic Stability Programme is designed to improve a vehicle’s stability by detecting and reducing loss of traction, which therefore prevents the tyres from skidding uncontrollably. When the Electronic Stability Programme detects a loss of steering control, it automatically applies individual brakes to help ‘steer’ the vehicle where the driver intended it to go.

ESP is alternatively known as Electronic Stability Control (or ESC for short). Other alternative terms sometimes used include Electronic Stabilisation Program, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), but they all encompass the same principles and technologies.

Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) is a life-saving piece of technology – but how exactly does it work?

How does ESP work?

A lot of road traffic accidents are the result of a loss of control in a corner taken too fast or a need to apply rapid braking, sometimes in bad weather conditions. Most drivers find it difficult to recover from a slide or spin without the use of driver safety technologies such as the Electronic Stability Programme.

ESP includes several pieces of technology that work together to keep the car safely on the road, in control and heading in the direction you wanted. This umbrella terms includes anti-lock brakes (ABS) and traction control.

As you steer, accelerate and brake, numerous sensors monitor the car’s behaviour and send data to a central computer. This computer then compares what you’re doing to how the car is responding. If, for example, you’re steering sharply to the left or right, but the car is ploughing on straight ahead (perhaps because the road is very wet or icy), the computer can recognise this and instruct the car’s systems to step in and help. Individual brakes will then be applied to each wheel to compensate and bring the car back into a more stable condition. This technology is far quicker to react than a human would be, meaning the Electronic Stability Programme can help to prevent skidding, emergency braking and accidents.

In the event of understeering, the ESC can decelerate the inside rear wheel. At the same time, the ESC can reduce the engine power until the car has stabilised again.

Electronic Stability Programme vs Traction Control

Some motorists incorrectly believe that the Electronic Stability Programme is either exactly the same as traction control, or that you can only have one or the other in a vehicle. In reality, the vast majority of cars around include both the Electronic Stability Control and traction control.

Because of their respective roles in keeping your car safe, traction control is nowadays usually considered a secondary function of stability control. While traction control focusses on one specific goal, ESP manages numerous systems at once to help keep drivers safe behind the wheel during trickier driving situations and conditions.

To find out more useful information on our safety features, take a look at our full list of safety feature articles on the Behind The Wheel blog.

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