Stability Control, are you ready for it?



  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    I was doing just about 100 mph into turn one at Sears Point Raceway and in late afternoon was a little lax, so I was about a foot or less wide, leaving my right rear tire about 4 in's into the dirt off the end of the burm. Since it's a left hander with a very wide entry to turn 2 when driven in open wheel cars, this was the line I was following. Luckily both the front wheels were firmly planted on pavement and as it broke loose the ESC put me into 4 tail slappers, very hard, rear out to the right, left, right and left again. Before I could react, I didn't lift, the car was pointed up hill to the turn 2 entry and I brake, downshift and apex turn 2 with a very high level of adrenalin waking me up fully. Only time I've had the system really save a potential big slide/wreck/crash, etc. Nice thing is, I'll never know. Since then I've skipped some late afternoon sessions when things get tiring and they usually do.

    Sorry about the bad outcome, but as you note, could have been lots worse.
  • xkssxkss Member Posts: 722
    Stability control is great, but what I don't like overly complicated gizmos like what the new BMWs have.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    Can you be more specific? What is overly complicated? I've had a ride with a neighbor in a E46 M3 and it seems fairly straight forward.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    What is the problem? Stability control didn't fail, the system got input as designed by the Toyota team and activated, just lucky nothing bad happened. A steering sensor failed, not used only for ESC, and the engineer didn't anticipate the possiblity of failure, bad design. The gyro in the Toyota ESC has a error fault built in that when it's output doesn't match other sensor inputs, it shuts itself off and provides that info to the system. What the car company does with that output is up to them. Toyota seems to have had more problems with integrating ESC than most other companies. The first reviews of the Sequoia were really bad with the ESC system being too intrusive.

    I also had a steering sensor go out on the Corvette and it shut off the ESC, produced a code which got me a new sensor under warranty since I took the car to a Corvette specialist that knew what it was right away.
  • user777user777 Member Posts: 3,341
    it was a general comment about the risks inherent in complex (in this case safety) systems. when they work, they can save your life, and when they fail, you'd better hope they were designed to failsafe. is that the case here? i don't know, but before we go embracing technology we need to understand the consequences of failed sensors and how the driver's authority may be usurped in some contexts.

    you started out by asking a question, and then answering it. i don't know if toyota's implementation is problematic or "bad"...but something about that report is worthy of reflection.

    you only know how the corvette implementation failes in one scenario. in all the other scenarios, are you safe?
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    getting shots for various forms of illness, it works for the vast majority. ESC seems to have worked out well for the vast majority and with only about eight years data there are studies to show its benefit. Is every car company getting the same results, no, I don't think so. Some are better than others and it seems to me that those who tested it in performance situations have come up with some of the best implementations.

    On the other hand, there is the driver response to any new technology that may require a different reaction than what was preferred prior to the technology. Just like ABS, most are going to have to learn about ESC. The problem with ESC is that quick reactions learned in racing may be the worst approach to this new technology. The model used in development is one of mostly non-response, so over correcting will confuse the system. The new mantra for ESC cars will be to steer where you want to go and hold it, not something that will be natural to a performance driver (a very small %).

    About "... before we go embracing technology we need to understand the consequences of failed sensors and how the driver's authority may be usurped in some contexts." You are very correct, that is what the engineer is supposed to do in setting up the system for the real world. Most consumers don't really care or want to even think about such things. They just want the system to work, which as noted above, it does, the vast majority of the time.
  • jabbottjabbott Member Posts: 14
    My next auto will have Electronic Stability Control. Period. Why have the American companies been so slow to add this feature? Why do the companies that offer ESC offer it only in an expensive package, except for Toyota and Hyundai? I believe that the auto manufacturers have a duty to push safety in their new cars. If not, you know who will.

  • falcononefalconone Member Posts: 1,726
    I've owned numerous cars that have stability control:

    2000 Mercedes C280
    2001 Merces C320
    2002 Audi allroad

    I will NEVER ever own a car without it. There are numerous studies out there that show fatalities have lowered in cars with this feature. To me it's a no brainer. It's also getting much cheaper as in option in less expensive cars. You can even get it now as an option on a Corolla. Five years from now it will be as common as ABS. Ten years from now, it will be in every car whether you want it or not. IT WORKS!! Trust me.
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 56,736
    My 98 C43 has it too. It's weird that so many new cars don't have what a 90s car has.
  • falcononefalconone Member Posts: 1,726
    Mercedes was one of the first to employ this technology. They usually are.
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 56,736
    Yeah. Kind of like how I can find a euro spec 1980 model year S-class with ABS and an airbag. 25 years old now.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    Not all of this is researched but as I understand it, MB put the first ESC system in a large 600 sedan and the system was about the size of a shoe box, about '93, I think. GM had Hughes aerospace engineers that were excess after the fall of the Berlin wall in about '91 and some of them were given the task of matching new technologies like ESC from MB. They had used a solid state gyroscope in the Maverick Missle that they thought could be lower cost if produced in volume, several other alternatives were looked at and they had the system in the '97 Caddy, I think, then the late '97 and full year '98 Corvette.

    In Europe when the MB A Class rolled during a press introduction they fell back on the message that since the production model would have ESC it wasn't a problem. That caused VW to go 100% ESC in Europe and that dragged along the rest of the middle market. In the US it stayed in the high end cars until the SUV issues and then migrated there next. Its best use might be SUVs but the studies in the EU, where they don't have many SUVs, show the most impact on safety is in small, short wheel base cars, usually driven by younger, new drivers.

    FWIW, Randy
  • tamarastertamaraster Member Posts: 107
    Stability control was standard in the Honda CR-V for 2005 (all trim levels) and I assume it's the same for 2006. I am really happy to have it.
  • jabbottjabbott Member Posts: 14
    The Nissan Maxima SE lists for $27,750. If you want Stability Control, it is a $600 option. This option is only available as part of a package that retails for $6,950 and includes power sunroof, driver preferred, sensory, navigation system, Blutooth, Spoiler and premium audio packages. The least you can pay for a Nissan Maxima with ESC is $35,305. The new Buick Lucerne CX lists for $26,900. If you want ESC, you must buy the CXS for $35,990 base MSRP. The new Chevrolet Impala, Ford 500, Ford Fusion, Pontiac Torrent and Saturn Vue do not have ESC available at any price. I hope sales of the new Sonata show them the error of their ways.

  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    It's a standalone option for $650 on the Camry LE, SE, and XLE. You can also get a $1300 package that includes side airbags and ESC. Problem is, it's almost impossible to actually find ESC in the 4-cylinder version.

    When I bought my 2005, I didn't even bother trying to find one with ESC, just got the side airbags.

    I recently saw some stats from Ward's showing that only 7% of 2005 Camrys were actually produced with ESC; I would bet virtually all of these were V6 models.
  • boxster1boxster1 Member Posts: 18
    I think you have most of the story right. Mercedes tested the world's first ESC in '94, putting it in production models in 1995. Yes, the big SUV rollover issues really brought the US manufacturers in "fast and furious" as ESC believers and they are finally catching up quickly now in the passenger vehicle segment. And now, with Hyundai providing it as standard in many of their low priced vehicles, I'm sure you will see it now as standard from many of the other, just to stay competitive. Amazing what a little competition can do.
  • boxster1boxster1 Member Posts: 18
    Yes, I think this may be just the medicine to get the others on board and as standard equipment or at least as a reasonable stand alone option.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142

    Takes ESC into account but combines NHTSA and IIHS ratings with other info to get a more real world factor.
    FWIW, Randy
  • 3_zooms3_zooms Member Posts: 1
    Consumer Reports has a good explaination of stability control, and they really seem to believe in it. Here's what they have to say about it on their website:

    "Electronic stability control (ESC) takes electronic traction control a step further. This system helps keep the vehicle on its intended path during a turn, to avoid sliding or skidding. It uses a computer linked to a series of sensors--detecting wheel speed, steering angle, sideways motion and yaw (spin). If the car starts to drift, the stability-control system momentarily brakes one or more wheels and, depending on the system, reduces engine power to keep the car back on course.

    ESC is especially helpful in providing an extra measure of control in slippery conditions and accident-avoidance situations. With tall, top-heavy vehicles like sport-utilities and pickups, it can also help keep a vehicle from getting into a situation where it could roll over.

    Volvo has taken stability control a step further with Roll Stability Control (RSC) in the XC90. It uses gyroscopic sensors to determine roll angle and roll speed to determine if roll over is eminent. If so, it triggers the standard stability control system and instantly reduces power and brakes the necessary wheels to bring the vehicle back under control. This system is also found on the Ford Explorer and Expedition SUVs, among others.

    Electronic stability control started on luxury cars and has been catching on for the past few years. To confuse matters, automakers each tend to have a proprietary name for their stability control systems (see the accompanying table). To help consumers identify the system in a vehicle's features list, the Society of Automotive Engineers has asked that all manufacturers use electronic stability control or ESC, as common terminology when referring to their stability-control systems. Consumer Reports supports this announcement, and feels it will help consumers know what they are buying. If in doubt whether a car has it, find out before you buy.


    Stability control helps keep a vehicle from skidding sideways. Automakers give their systems a confusing array of names, including the ones listed below:


    Acura: Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA)
    Audi: Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
    BMW: Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
    Buick: StabiliTrak
    Cadillac: StabiliTrak
    Chevrolet: Active Handling (cars);
    StabiliTrak (SUVs)
    Chrysler: Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
    Dodge: Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
    Ford: AdvanceTrac
    GMC: StabiliTrak
    Honda: Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA)
    Hummer: StabiliTrak
    Hyundai: Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
    Infiniti: Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC)
    Jaguar: Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
    Jeep: Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
    Kia: Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
    Land Rover: Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
    Lexus: Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)
    Lincoln: AdvanceTrac
    Mazda: Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
    Mercedes-Benz: Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
    Mercury: AdvanceTrac
    Mini Cooper: Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
    Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi Active Skid & Traction
    Control System (M-ASTC)
    Nissan: Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC)
    Pontiac: StabiliTrak
    Porsche: Porsche Stability Management (PSM)
    Saab: Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
    Saturn: StabiliTrak
    Scion: Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)
    Subaru: Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC)
    Toyota: Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)
    Volkswagen: Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
    Volvo: Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC)

    -Consumer Reports' auto experts highly recommend stability control where it's offered. But it does have its limits: You can't just speed into a curve and expect the system to bail you out. Taking any corner too fast could compromise the system's ability to keep the vehicle on course."

    -I definitely want it in my next car, and strongly believe it should be at least available on all vehicles.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    Just like ABS where drivers needed to learn how to drive with it compared to older brake systems, ESC is similar, it doesn't do what you might expect if you are a total rookie or an experienced driver. Experienced drivers are used to counter steering in a skid and the problem is you have to steer ESC where you want it to go, not trying to correct for the next response of the car, which is what counter steering would help you do. Always look for the exit and your hands will follow and the car will get there, keep that in mind and you are better off. Inexperienced drivers usually look at the object they don't want to hit, and guess what, the hands follow and they hit it. Remember, look for the exit, steer toward that and the car will get there.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Member Posts: 1,280
    The Lexus IS350's VDIM might be defeatable, much like the Volvo S60R's is (on that one you have to push the "TC off" button at a certain frequency). Someone try this and let us know!

    “start the car with the parking brake on ….then foot brake twice….(keep the foot brake down)….then parking brake twice (keep it down )and repeat till skid light is on the dash… will reset when you restart the car”

    Apparently, this disables everything but the ABS. Source: VWVortex Forums via Digg
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142

    Mentions ESC as basic starting point for active safety systems.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142

    But at least a good percentage are looking to the future. Now once they get it they just have to learn a little something about how to drive with it.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142

    Interesting in light of the relation to the old IDLSWDY, makes both points that were common, SUVs may not be more safe due to rollover but they are more safe due to size and it seems to balance. The issue then gets to be that with ESC you reduce the rollover risk significantly.
  • rockyleerockylee Member Posts: 14,014
    I'm only interested in it if it's defeatable on sporty cars. ;)

  • boxster1boxster1 Member Posts: 18
    Of course, you are correct. Big vehicles are safer from the standpoint of getting hit, and if you can drive a big SUV with ESC, that lessens the chance of a rollover a great deal. They you only have to worry about the $80 fillups at the pump!
  • boxster1boxster1 Member Posts: 18
    I think you are right, Abbott. But the logical reasoning was that it cost extra to add on ESC, so most manufacturers felt that they might not be competitive in pricing if they did it. But now the virtues of the added safety are hard to dispute. ESC is a HUGE step forward in preventing crashes and it seems that most of the manufacturers are getting on board. They did it with the SUVs almost overnight when litigation was moving in on them. So they should be able to move equally quick on the sedans -- it really would be the right thing to do.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    I think the jury is still out on whether ESC will be added to sedans as standard equipment. They have a much lower rollover risk in the first place, so unless the market moves to match Hyundai and Kia (which now have std. ESC across the board except for the Accent and Rio), I think ESC will remain optional on cars for a few years at least.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    The idea that ESC adds significant cost is something that car companies would hint at without saying directly but simply isn't true. The component with the gyro and the steering sensor are the only added hardware to a regular ABS system and totaled much less than $100, even several years ago, today it's probably less than $50. The software is something that they now clone off prior implementations and is spread over huge volumes. While they kept it an option it was a good money maker for the car companies since those that paid were willing to ante up what was being asked. It's mostly standard on stuff from the EU and I think the NA producers will get on board since GM announced that it would be on all SUVs in a couple years.
  • boxster1boxster1 Member Posts: 18
    I think the manufacturers will definitely get on board, and as you mentioned, most of Europe is already there. But then Europeans seem to understand the value of driving softer compound winter tires for the cold months too -- instead of "all season" tires. With the actual cost of adding ESC pretty cheap (when you already have traction control and ABS) I would have to believe the major manufacturers will start making it standard. They usually do it all at once when they realize that Hyundai or Toyota are going to add it to all models. Then everyone gets on board. It will happen - soon.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Member Posts: 18,903
    you hit a curb (the most obvious example i could think of) and start to roll over? how is 'esc' going to help?
    i guess my real question is, what IS the most common cause of a rollover (other than the driver)?
    2023 Ford Explorer ST, 91 Mustang GT vert
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    It won't help you once you hit the curb sideways. But it may prevent you from getting sideways in the first place.

    Most rollovers are single-vehicle events. That means the driver lost control for one reason or another, with distraction and driving too fast for conditions being the likely culprits, IMO.

    But road design is a factor. It's too bad so many of our interstates were built with sharply V-shaped medians. They should have been built flatter with a barrier down the middle if necessary. A lot of interstate rollovers happen when the vehicle goes into the median.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Member Posts: 18,903
    once you are sliding on the grassy median area, is 'esc' going to help you?
    my guess is once a driver realizes they are off line, they will slam the brakes. 'abs' may help. how does 'esc' know where you need to go?
    the driver has to trust the brakes and the steering.
    some will be able to do that, others will not.
    2023 Ford Explorer ST, 91 Mustang GT vert
  • user777user777 Member Posts: 3,341
    if you're in the ditch, i doubt it will help you.

    i think if you are cornering super fast like those really cool test track drivers in the articles touting the benefits of stability control, then when the vehicle starts to plow or yaw excessively, it will save you.

    the best way to stay out of those conditions is to know yourself and skills, the condition and capability of your vehicle, and have knowlege of road conditions, then drive well within the constraints of each.

    unfortunately, a lot of new drivers in vehicles inappropriate for poor skillsets are driven outside of these constraints. it may be a lifesaver technology, but it would be wrong to rely on it (unless you're a test track driver... but then... you don't need it).
  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 49,695
    I believe the most common reason (or at least a very common reason on SUVs) is that they "trip" over a curb or something causing them to roll.

    I don't think people realize how hard it is to get a normal car to rollover (without it being t-boned or something). You really have to work at it, or do soemthing truly stupid. It is easier to spin out, but even doing that takes some effort (although not if you are on glare ice)!

    I think my point is that ESC is useful for keeping you losing control in some cases, although even if it kicks in that doesn't mean you were going to completely lose control of your car and wipe out.

    2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD, 2023 Maverick hybrid Lariat luxury package.

  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    I think you're assuming the car stays on the road. In that case, it is hard to get a car to roll.

    But go off the road (for whatever reason), over an embankment, and it won't be hard to roll a car.
  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 49,695
    Yup. Certainly if you go sideways on a steep hill that would do it. The "tripping" usually happens when you are leaving the road (on a curb say).

    2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD, 2023 Maverick hybrid Lariat luxury package.

  • shiphroshiphro Member Posts: 62
    My first experience with ESC was when it saved my passenger-side, rear rim from a curb.

    It was the first snowfall in my new car and the AWD and traction control had made me over confident. (It pulled very well from a stop even under slippery conditions)

    I realized late (entering the turn) that I was carrying a little too much speed. I felt the car approaching the edge of control and already knew what was going to happen: the nose-heavy front wheels would continue to bite, but the light back end was going to break loose and I was going to fishtail my very expensive rim and tire into a tall, concrete curb.

    Then a little yellow light flashed on the dashboard and everything was okay. ESC had triggered the ABS on the driver-side rear wheel and managed to pivot the car back on track. The laws of physics weren't violated (I was only slightly faster than what would've not required ESC), but the car did something that no driver could have in order to keep me on course.

    That sort of handling magic is what will help keep SUVs on course and upright. The combination of throttle-by-wire cutoff and independent ABS channel operation will keep all but the most determined drivers rolling forward (no rollovers) instead of skidding sideways (rollovers).
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    Your result is what many I've talked to many others about. But as you note, you were close to being in total control. I just got a ride in a Cayman S at a road course and the driver just couldn't get how slow he had to approach one turn and one time my input to brake early was a bit late. He went sideways and the width of track wasn't enough for the ESC to get him around the turn, off we went into soft dirt in a cloud of dust and since he was a new driver his speed wasn't anything close to the limits so the tire wall ended up about two feet away as we slid to a stop, covered in dust. ESC is good and even at the limits on track it can do amazing things but it won't save every situation.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    explorerx4 ... "the driver has to trust the brakes and the steering. some will be able to do that, others will not."

    I've talked to two Corvette drivers that now feel that they overcorrected in a skid with ESC engaged and were basically trying to overpower the system. In both cases the result was a concrete wall. If you are in a skid it seems you have to point the car where you want it to go, knowing that the hands will follow the eyes, and let the system get it there. Look to the opening, not the tree or wall. Or as noted, trust the system, which will be a hard learning experience for many.
  • user777user777 Member Posts: 3,341
    good point. just like people aren't use to ABS, and in a panic stop, sometimes revert to pumping the system rather than "stomp and steer".

    drivers maybe ill prepared to work with the automation since they will have little experience with it and may be caught unprepared when it activates.
  • tamarastertamaraster Member Posts: 107
    This is probably true for experienced and skillful drivers. For those of us who never quite got the thing of pumping the brakes, steering out of a skid, etc., these things are awesome (though even I have to remind myself to not try to correct when the VSA kicks in going around a snowy corner).
  • estoesto Member Posts: 136
    I'm assuming that ABS, TC, and ESC are all controlled by the same control module. Is this a correct assumption? If so, there's some sophisticated embedded firmware running the show, as it were. Does each auto manufacturer do it on their own, or do they buy a black box from some outfit like TRW or Bosch or ? and then somehow customize it for their vehicles? What would these customizations be? Are some systems "better" than others? Have there been any reports of software bugs in these systems that affect safety?
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    Just one man's opinion with some background but no engineering details. The big producers of ESC are Bosch and Conti/Teves with TRW, Delphi and several others having smaller market shares. The Bosch system is on most of the high end vehicles like 5/7 series BMWs, 911 and top MBs but also on some mid level units. The CT system is on the 3 series, Boxster, Ford SUVs, Volvo and lower end MBs, also on some Toyota's and lots of VWs. TRW got GM truck and other GM is spread around with some of their own units.
    Bosch has its own gyro while CT uses a unit produced in the US. TRW has a unit that I think comes from a joint venture of EU/Asia companies. The gyro, from what ever source, measures yaw and in some cases there is a roll gyro as well. This input to a computer goes into software developed by each auto company along with the steering and wheelspeed inputs and the system then decides what happens. Mostly that was braking but there are new systems that drive individual wheels on AWD cars. So, each car company has its own system and even different systems by model, for example Corvette vs. Cadillac. In the case of Corvette, the one I know best, the system has allowed more yaw before engaging the system from its 1998 introduction up to current production. I can get my '02 Vette to use a slip angle of about a foot of rear end slide before the system intervenes if I am very smooth with the steering and throttle, that wasn't possible with the '00 and prior year models.
  • corvettecorvette Member Posts: 10,042
    ...point the car where you want it to go, knowing that the hands will follow the eyes, and let the system get it there.

    Isn't that the same way you correct a skid without ESC?
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    "Isn't that the same way you correct a skid without ESC?"

    I think most people would add something about steering into the skid, or counter steering and in this case there is no need to mention that as it might be counterproductive. For ESC what really causes problems is the oversteering, back and forth in a tail slapper skid, that confuses the system (where does this yahoo want to go?).

    Here is a current article I found that is one of the best at mentioning the need to 'drive differently' when using ESC.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Member Posts: 18,903
    the 'driving differently' is kind of scary it you drive more than 1 vehicle.
    2023 Ford Explorer ST, 91 Mustang GT vert
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