Gaining Traction

In the span of a few weeks in November, it appeared the U.S. Big Three auto makers discovered the wonders of electronic stability control (ESC). For years, the top suppliers of the enhanced antilock brake system have marketed the technology for preventing drivers from skidding out of control. Now that the suppliers smartly extol the virtues of the technology in preventing rollovers, it appears auto

In the span of a few weeks in November, it appeared the U.S. Big Three auto makers discovered the wonders of electronic stability control (ESC).

For years, the top suppliers of the enhanced antilock brake system have marketed the technology for preventing drivers from skidding out of control. Now that the suppliers smartly extol the virtues of the technology in preventing rollovers, it appears auto makers are getting the message.

General Motors Corp. announces ESC will be standard on all GM fullsize '05 SUVs and will be optional on midsize SUVs in '06.

ESC supplier Robert Bosch GmbH this fall launched a special training program for GM's Buick dealers to prepare them for selling the system on the new LaCrosse sedan. That training program will migrate to Chevrolet and GMC dealers in preparation for next year's rollout of GM's GMT900 fullsize pickups and SUVs.

Likewise, the Chrysler Group plans to provide ESC as standard equipment on all of its SUVs. Included are the Jeep Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and the upcoming Commander, as well as the Dodge Durango, as early as 2005, with full implementation by the end of 2006.

The auto maker says it expects to have the anti-rollover system installed in more than 750,000 SUVs during its first year of implementation.

A Chrysler spokesman says the system costs between $500 and $600 per vehicle. The auto maker has yet to decide whether to increase base vehicle prices accordingly.

Ford Motor Co. announces its Roll Stability Control technology will come standard on certain '06 Econoline vans.

Developed in concert with Continental Automotive Systems, Ford's RSC first appeared on the Volvo XC90 cross/utility vehicle and is standard on midsize SUVs and the Lincoln Navigator.

The auto maker is considering the technology also for the Escape and Freestyle CUVs.

Ford says it will share its RSC technology under licensing agreements with other auto makers in an effort to proliferate the safety feature industry wide.

RSC uses a gyroscopic sensor to determine body roll angle and rate and has the ability to lock a wheel, while ESC strictly senses yaw and slows down individual wheels to discourage slip.

The move to broaden ESC availability in part comes in response to the recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study that said the technology could save up to 7,000 lives each year if it were standard equipment on all vehicles.

The findings mirrored those of other studies, as well as a recent report issued by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and commissioned by ESC supplier TRW Automotive.

UMTRI analyzed accidents that occurred between 1999 and 2001 and found 29.9% of all single-vehicle SUV crashes result in rollovers, compared with 10.4% of passenger cars. The likelihood of rollovers occurring, however, went up when road conditions and speed were factored in.

Some 48% of the SUV rollovers studied involved skidding — a dangerous circumstance that ESC was designed to prevent.

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