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Victorian legislation forced the Federal Government's hand.

At a Geneva meeting in June 2008 the UN World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (UNECE WP29) adopted a Global Technical Regulation (GTR) on
ESC for light duty vehicles and passenger cars.


Implementation of that safety imitative in Australia had already started in Victoria in February 2007, when Premier John Brumby unveiled that State’s “arrive alive 2008-2017” road safety strategy. A cornerstone of this program was to be the compulsory fitment of electronic stability control (ESC) to all new cars registered in Victoria from January 2011.

In adopting  the 2008 international regulation then Australian Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said: “International research has found this technology has the potential to be the greatest innovation since the seatbelt in saving lives and making our roads significantly safer”.


Global ESC

Overseas research shows that ESC can reduce dry-road accidents by more than 20 percent, but its benefits are even more significant in wet and icy conditions, where the accident reduction rate increases to between 30 and 40 percent.

As at 2008 the installation rate of ESC in new European cars was below 50 percent and only 20 percent of the car fleet was equipped with ESC. This life saving technology had been available for more than 10 years and EEC lawmakers were dissatisfied with the lack of public acceptance – hence the move
to compulsory ESC.

With mandatory ESC the official estimate was a saving of around 4000 lives in the EEC alone.

The USA’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration predicted that up to 9600 US lives could be saved each year if all automakers included electronic stabilization systems as standard equipment. The USA mandated ESC in all new cars from 2012.

Transport Canada also had a 2012 introduction date and decided to eliminate consumer confusion over automotive stability control systems. The department asked carmakers to drop all their proprietary handling aids’ names — ESP, VSA, DSC and all the other acronyms – in favour of the acronym used in the European ‘ChooseESC!’ campaign.

Four times World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb gave the ‘ChooseESC!’ campaign a strong endorsement and conducted demonstrations that proved the safety benefits of ESC.

At a demonstration held in conjunction with the 2008 Acropolis Rally Sebastian Loeb told the international motoring press that no one can react as fast as ESC – not even the great man himself.

“ESC controls the movement of the vehicle 25 times a second and that is faster than any of us,” said Sebastian Loeb.

“Controlled slides are part of rallying, but when I am driving on public roads with my family, I want to avoid skidding at all costs, which is why I would always choose ESC for my car.”

Sebastian Loeb demonstrated that even with his wealth of rallying experience he could not provoke a skid in a Citroen C2 when its ESC was engaged.


What is ESC

ESC is an extension of ABS anti-lock and traction control systems. ABS provides wheel speed sensors and the traction control system contributes an accumulator that can apply the brakes without brake pedal depression. The ESC components include a yaw-rate sensor, a lateral acceleration sensor, a steering wheel position sensor, and an upgraded electronic control unit (ECU).

The ESC sensors tell the ECU how rapidly and how far ‘out of shape’ a vehicle is getting, at which point the ESC control applies selective braking to one or more wheels to restore equilibrium. Generally, an understeering situation is remedied by rear wheel braking and an oversteer situation, by front wheel braking. The ESC system may also dictate a reduction in engine power. Of course, the ESC system relies on tyre grip to carry out its braking
actions, so it’s not a panacea for dopey driving.


The Australian Scene

All car and 4WD makers are including ESC in their new models, because of the public focus on ‘star ratings’ issued by Australia’s leading vehicle safety organisation, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP). ESC has been an ANCAP requirement for a five-star safety rating from the beginning
of 2008. From 2012, several major mining companies stated they would purchase only vehicles that have a five-star safety rating.