Tue, 06 Jan 2009
Whatever our views may be on new technologies adorning modern cars all in the name of road safety, statistics are showing these are becoming life saving devices.

To this, we motorists should be thankful.

Some drivers may question the purpose of certain safety devices such as the audible warning sound that comes on if driver or passengers fail to put on their seatbelt straight sway. Surely we, as motorists, are aware we have not yet fastened our seatbelt?

The die-hard sceptics could even go one step further and cite manufacturers as being rather patronising to the modern day motorist. Do we really need rain-sensing wipers as we fail to notice it has in fact started to rain? Do we really need auto lights in case we are oblivious that darkness has descended?

Hands up those who can honestly work out automatic climate control successfully without blowing a gale?

However when it comes to car safety, manufacturers are on a quest to develop new systems. ABS for example first pioneered by Volvo back in 1984 was heralded the next best thing since the inertia three point safety belts for road safety. Many a car has been saved from the perils of disaster thanks to ABS that helps to avoid a skid. This system is now standard in most cars today.

Another system is now emerging as a vital contribution towards road safely and saving lives. That of ESP.

This system is extremely clever in the sense it perceives if the car is likely to skid by electronic sensors, then brakes either one, two, three or all fours wheels automatically to keep you the driver in a straight line which in my eyes is Extra -ordinary Sensory Perception.

Of course the real name for this system is Electronic Stability Programme to which I was privy to test while at the Autostadt in Germany last weekend,

All new VW Golf’s are fitted with this system as standard and in a succession of trials I first had to drive quickly in a straight line, and then brake as hard as I could. With ESP this Golf stayed firmly on the track with no signs of skidding off piste.

The second test was the same except when I braked hard to stop I had to steer around a cone that simulated another car. Again the Golf came to a complete stop very quickly without skidding proving you can steer and brake at the same time.

The third test was driving at speed, braking hard again as if in an emergency stop, avoid a cone but on a wet surface. Do not forget it takes a car four times longer to stop on wet surfaces. The Golf was faultless and came to a safe stop with no inkling of skidding.

The final test was the same but this time I had to turn the ESP off via a switch on the dashboard. You can imagine the potential carnage. The Golf did not stop in a straight line and in one case went into a skid despite ABS, as I had to brake very hard and quickly as if in an emergency.

This really is an ingenious safety device and is becoming standard on many of the larger new cars today such as BMW and Jaguar. Better news is that if offered as an optional extra it can be quite cheap. For instance it costs only £400 to have ESP fitted on a Fiat 500.

On the other hand Vauxhall claim that only around 10% of customers request ESP as an optional extra.

I wonder is this is because the general public do not fully understand the benefits of ESP and what a life saving device it actually is.

BOSCH developed ESP and they claim it has saved thousands of lives already and would have saved a further 4,000 across Europe if all cars were fitted with the system.

VW had done their own research and they claim that in Germany alone, the ESP prevents more than 1,000 fatal accidents each year because it reduces the risk of a car skidding by a remarkable 80%. It has its helpers mind you, in the guise of ABS, Anti Skid Regulation- ASR, Hydraulic Brake Assist - HBA, Electronic Differential Lock- EDL, Cornering Brake Control- CBC and Engine Drag Torque Regulation - EDTR.

As an add on ESP now features Driver Steering Recommendation and Trailer Stabilisation on the VW Golf’s, Golf Plus, Touran Eos and Passat models.

If you are in a position to buy a new car, I highly recommend you chose one with ESP and if this is an optional extra, order it. For this will be the best money you would have invested in a car that has been proven to save lives.

ESP really is Extra (ordinary) Sensory Perception

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