A guide to active safety systems

A Guide to Active Safety Systems

Today’s tech is making cars safer than ever, but do you know how active safety systems work? Here we demystify the gadgetry with the help of our motoring journalist, Tim Barnes-Clay.

The basics

So, let’s get straight to it. What is an active safety system? Well, it’s terminology that outlines the features of a vehicle, such as Traction Control, Power Assisted Steering and an Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS). All this technology helps to keep your car stable while driving, and these active safety systems are continuously being perfected by automakers. In this guide, we’ll look at how the main ones work.

Anti-lock braking system

Nearly all cars are fitted with ABS. Anti-Lock Braking has been around for years and offers you more control over your motor when braking severely. It’s intended to prevent the car’s wheels from locking during an urgent braking situation, giving you more control over your steering. It’s an electric mechanism on the brake system’s hydraulics. When you operate the brake pedal, each wheel starts to slow down and stop. When braking hard, the wheels can lock completely. When this happens, you can’t steer away from the danger. ABS senses when the wheel is about to lock and frees the brake on that wheel only. When the wheel starts to revolve again, the ABS ensures the brake is reapplied. When the system is triggered you must carry on braking with full pressure throughout. ABS will result in better stopping time and distance. It doesn’t 100 per cent guarantee that your vehicle won’t skid, but it does help lower the risk.

Emergency brake assist

New vehicles also have Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) fitted. This safety tech boosts the pressure on the brake pedal in a crisis. EBA became popular following a study by Mercedes Benz in 2002. The research revealed that 90 per cent of drivers didn't brake hard enough in an emergency. So, now, EBA overrides the force you put into the brake pedal and completely applies the brakes to make certain the vehicle comes to a stop as soon as possible.

BLIS – Blind spot information system

The Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) was established by Volvo. It is a sensor that is used to perceive other vehicles to the rear and side of the car. You’re warned via audio, visual or touch based signals. Touch notifications can consist of features like a vibration in the steering wheel or your seat. Some blind spot monitors also encompass ‘Cross Traffic Alert’, which informs you if traffic is approaching from the side. This is beneficial, particularly when reversing out of parking bays.

Traction control systems

Traction Control (TCS) is intended to prevent a vehicle from slipping or skidding during acceleration. From time to time, the power from the accelerator to your car’s wheels will be greater than the available traction in the tyre. Or to be geeky, it’s when the engine torque and throttle input are mismatched to the road surface. This is known as a wheel spin. Unless you’re deliberately trying to wheel-spin, it normally isn’t the anticipated outcome of accelerating. Therefore, the TCS will check each wheel for the surplus spin. If a wheel is rotating too quickly for the tarmac, the system will apply a brake to that wheel. Some TCS systems will also decrease the engine power to the wheel.

Electronic stability programmes (ESP)

Encompassing anti-lock braking and traction control, the Electronic Stability Programme adjusts your car if you’re driving it beyond its capabilities. Each car manufacturer will have its own settings for the ESP. It’s worth checking your car’s handbook for features on your model’s settings. Generally speaking, ESP has a sensor on each wheel which works with a yaw sensor. This tech measures the car’s speed around its vertical axis. An additional sensor is located on the steering column, which checks your intended direction of travel. Each sensor communicates with the other, and if any of them perceive that the car is not moving in the right direction, the ESP intervenes. It works by applying the brakes to individual wheels to adjust the alignment of the car, correcting over-steer or under-steer.

Your next car

So there you have it, we hope you know more about active safety systems than you did before you read the article? If you think you need to modernise your transport, then get in touch with us and we'll help you find the best and safest car for you.