Learn your Safety Acronyms
The past few years have seen an enormous increase in safety developments on vehicles. There are systems that brake for you, sensors that stop you getting too close to another vehicle, gadgets that detect your eyes drooping and mechanisms to minimize impact severity if a crash becomes inevitable. Below we list a few of the most frequently-heard acronyms from the world of vehicle safety. Bear in mind that manufacturers will often have their own three-letter abbreviation for a more generic safety system, so for example if you’re looking to buy a car with ESC, you will hear it referred to by a number of other names, depending on which car maker you talk to.
ABS – Anti-lock Braking System
This technology uses a series of sensors to prevent the car’s wheels locking up under braking. If the wheels do lock up it can lead to skidding. By rapidly releasing and then re-applying the car’s brakes, ABS allows the driver to maintain control (including the ability to steer) while reducing speed in extreme circumstances. A common misconception is that ABS can decrease stopping distances, this is only the case when braking heavily on surfaces such as snow or gravel.
EBD – Electronic Brakeforce Distribution
A clever system that works in conjunction with ABS and, as the name suggests, distributes braking power to the wheels that have the most grip. If the driver’s side wheels hit ice, for example, braking power is sent to the opposite wheels, slowing the car down and preventing the car going into a spin.
EBA – Electronic Brake Assist
In an emergency situation, the majority of drivers do not apply enough pressure to the brake pedal to prevent an accident. EBA senses this and applies full brakes until the driver takes the pressure off the brake pedal.
ECU – Electronic Control Unit
Some refer to this as the engine management system. It is basically an on-board computer which monitors the operation and performance of your engine. Sophisticated braking and traction aids may also be linked so they can be coordinated with the engine.
ESP – Electronic Stability Programme
This is an advanced traction control system which works to achieve optimum levels of grip. By monitoring each wheel, the system’s computer can reduce the amount of power developed by the engine or apply the brakes to ensure the car stays on course. Independent studies have shown ESP systems could prevent up to a third of all road accidents. This safety feature is commonly known as ESP, but other acronyms used by manufacturers include: ASC, DSC, DTSC, ESC, ESP+, VDC, VSA and VSC.
eCall is a project of the European Commission intended to bring rapid assistance to motorists involved in a collision anywhere in the European Union. The projects aims to employ a hardware black box installed in vehicles that will wirelessly send airbag deployment and impact sensor information, as well as GPS coordinates, to local emergency agencies.
ISOFIX – International Standards Organisation FIX
This is a child car seat fitting system now fitted as standard in most new cars. Fitting a child seat can be fiddly, and if mistakes are made, the seat may not protect a child as it should. The ISOFIX system aims to solve this problem by providing mounting points fixed to the body of the car. This makes it simple to ‘plug’ the seat into place, banishing fitting variables and ensuring the seat is held very firmly.
SIPS – Side Impact Protection System
This term refers to a vehicle’s safety features that have been included to reduce the possibility of injury to passengers, or damage to the vehicle, when involved in a side-on impact.