Electronic Stability Control mandated in all vehicles by 2012
April 26, 2007 3:27 PM   Subscribe

All your donuts are belong to us. The US government has mandated that by 2012, all new vehicles must have Electronic Stability Control. ESC senses when a driver may lose control of the vehicle and automatically applies brakes to individual wheels to help stabilize it and avoid a rollover.
posted by jaimev (39 comments total)
If donuts become illegal, then only criminals will do donuts.
Sorry - it had to be said.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:36 PM on April 26, 2007

...And thus the Mayan prophecy will be fulfilled in 2012!!!
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:39 PM on April 26, 2007

Knew it was coming for quite awhile...but great...now there will be even MORE people who try to drive their SUV's like Ariel Atoms because they "can't flip over." Hell, I often wonder how my girlfriend doesn't flip her '04 Ford Rustang over the way she drives it...
posted by rhythim at 3:43 PM on April 26, 2007

Some regions of the US refer to "doing doughnuts" as "whipping shitties"
posted by vronsky at 3:45 PM on April 26, 2007

...and modchips will be available by 2011.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:01 PM on April 26, 2007

Doesn't this bring up the age-old discussion about who's legally liable in case the car's software fails?
posted by spiderskull at 4:22 PM on April 26, 2007

What rhythim said. I've always wondered if ESP actually causes more accidents, given that it makes people think the laws of physics no longer apply. Being the owner of a new GTI and having driven it in the snow, I can say that it definitely can save your ass but overall it's a strange little beast. The car doesn't really react at the limits like you'd expect it to, in that the ESP is good for preventing some things but not others - completely sideways movements like handbrake turns confuse the shit out of it. I can imagine scenarios where, in most cases, you're just going a lot faster when you fuck up enough that the computer can't help.
posted by jimmythefish at 4:39 PM on April 26, 2007

ESP is good for people that don't know how to drive.

...which is most of you fuckers... grumble..grumble...
posted by LordSludge at 4:46 PM on April 26, 2007

Some regions of the US refer to "doing doughnuts" as "whipping shitties"

And in other parts they call them "doin' brodies".
posted by puke & cry at 4:48 PM on April 26, 2007

You know, ESC could be a good feature. If you keeping whipping the car into turns too fast, it can apply the brakes to all the wheels for, oh, forever, thus keeping the stupid driver from killing me.
posted by eriko at 5:15 PM on April 26, 2007

I could use a donut right now.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:23 PM on April 26, 2007

Fucking Jim Rockford is not going to like this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:24 PM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Humans are boundary-seeking creatures.

An example: The third high-mounted braking light was introduced across vehicles in the 1990s, due to laboratory experiments that showed 23% reduction in rear-end collisions. In the field, the results were fantastic: new vehicles were involved in 36% less collisions in the first of semi-annual studies (1991). By the last study (1998), that number had dropped to 4.3%. People adapt to safety mechanisms by changing their behavior to reach an 'acceptable' level of risk. (ref)

I'm pretty confident that ESC will show a similar effect. A highway planner told me the other day that the same asphalt carries 20% more vehicles per hour that it did in the 1960s, since people have taken advantage of better brakes and handling to drive faster and tailgate more.
posted by anthill at 5:26 PM on April 26, 2007 [4 favorites]

Here's a great (long) article from 2001 from the New Yorker about the decisions people make when driving and how that impacts their safety. No login shenanigans required.
posted by mdonley at 5:37 PM on April 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Luckily (for donuts), most cars with stability control allow you to disable it. Useful in a number of situations including the racetrack and starting from a stop in snow (which confuses most stability systems).
posted by jba at 5:44 PM on April 26, 2007

I bet a nickel that the Ariel Atom won't have ECS in 2012. I'll bet an additional $.05 American that, despite my deep desire to own it, I'll still be to broke to even stand near one in a showroom.

Probably because I keep betting small change on line. That shit adds up.
posted by quin at 5:53 PM on April 26, 2007

Then they took the right to break traction - but I did not speak out...
posted by Samuel Farrow at 6:16 PM on April 26, 2007

If I'm not mistaken, does not a mandate of ESC imply a mandate of ABS by default? ESC is just a chip and some software that adds some additional functions to your anti-lock brake system. From a manufacturer's viewpoint, if you already have ABS equipped it is dirt cheap to add ESC capability. On my Volkswagen it was like less than $300 to add the ESC upgrade with should give you an idea what it actually costs the manufacturer.

I will however take this opportunity to insert my standard rant that there are a lot of real simple and cheap ways to make vehicles hella safer. How bout 4 point seatbelts? How many lives would you save if people were required to wear helmets while driving? It will never happen of course because nobody wants to be safer at the expense of a flattened perm.
posted by well_balanced at 6:18 PM on April 26, 2007

Oh fuck me. I think all this mandated safety equipment is a bunch of crap. I don't want ABS (I can threshold brake just fine, thanks), and I sure as hell don't want some idiotic computer making the car do unpredictable things in an emergency situation.

As an aside, I really hate airbags. I wouldn't hate them so much if they had a much higher threshold for going off when one is belted in.

Did I mention that I really hate SUVs because of the morons who drive them like sedans? Perhaps I should also mention that much better than mandating airbags, anti lock brakes, and electronic stability control, we should mandate real licensing standards, perhaps even going so far as to include actual training on how to handle a car in high speed maneuvers.

To think, instead of spending an extra few thousand dollars on every car you buy, you fix yourself just once for a few hundred...
posted by wierdo at 6:40 PM on April 26, 2007

Gee, that should only add what, another $1,500 to the price of every car? Great. ABS isn't cheap, well_balanced.

And yeah, idiots who can barely drive their cars now will think this is carte blanche to drive even more stupidly, because the car will save them.

I'd like to add to simple and cheap ways to make vehicles safer: train drivers better. And punish the crap out of them if they get into accidents because their driving skills are poor.

I ride a motorcycle in SoCal. I see a lot of accidents, and a lot more near-accidents, that are clearly being caused by driver error. Let's up the standards for driver licensing, please.

on preview: nice to know I'm not alone in my thoughts.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:45 PM on April 26, 2007

You'll get absolutely no arguments from me that licensing and driver training standards need to be a lot tougher than they are now. In general though ABS and ESC are very good things with or without smart drivers. My opinion is that any kind of assumption that ESC will encourage drivers to drive more recklessly than they already do is a false one. ESC is essentially transparent until you have breached stability and will do nothing to tangibly create an impression to the driver that the stability window is larger than it actually is.
posted by well_balanced at 8:08 PM on April 26, 2007

You don't have to dislike stability control to think that making it required by law is a bad idea.

ESC sounds good to me, and as long as it's implemented well it's something wouldn't mind having in my car some day. I've heard that some manufacturers do a much better job of it than others, though. At the same time, government regulation requiring it for all cars sounds like the "nanny state" has gone a few steps too far. I'd sooner see them require that every car have perfect balance and precise steering; things that fewer people would not want.

Unlike most government safety regulations, NHTSA is mandating some specific equipment -- rather than a performance standard.

That's what irks me. There is no performance standard that all cars can meet with ESC that some couldn't meet without it. It seems unfair to require it on cars that would do better without it than others will do with it. They are getting too far into the details of design. They should stick to the things that matter, and set some kind of performance standard if they really feel the need to. Certain manufacturers would obviously prefer to add on a yaw sensor and other simple electronics to their more dangerously top-heavy or poorly-balanced vehicles, and call it 5% more safe. It's just a little more of the kind of regulatory ineptitude we've become accustomed to.
posted by sfenders at 9:36 PM on April 26, 2007

Back in the late 70's and early 80's, my buddy Shane had a gorgeous, jet-black '65 Barracuda. Man, I loved that car, as did he, until he rolled it one summer night.

We had all sorts of stupid things to do in that car, usually involving teenage girls when possible and always involving alcohol. It was small town northern BC. Life involved alcohol.

There were more than a few accidents over the years before we wised up, but nobody was ever hurt.

In the winter, when we were tired of the arcade and it was still too early to hit the rye (or, sometimes, after hitting the rye), we used to go to the biggest parking lot in town, beside the Arena, which wasn't a parking lot so much as a big, iced-over, gravelly field, and do doughnuts. Lots of them. With the ACDC cranked to the balls, of course. Same kind of motor skills involved as in Tempest, more or less.

As I recall, we got over 60 consecutive ice-doughnuts one night, which was a kind of crowning automotive stupidity achievement for our teenage years. And not a single drop was spilled, which was, as they say, the icing on the cake.

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:36 PM on April 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Well hell, stavros, are we certain that we didn't hang out in our mis-spent youths, because I have basically that same story.

Though it wasn't a 'cuda, it was a Pontiac Catalina. Beyond that we probably have a lot of the same stories.
posted by quin at 11:13 PM on April 26, 2007

The same people, ahem, corporations that lobby for mandating equipment like this are the same corporations that lobby for keeping driver license skills tests at a third grade level. (Here in USA). Literally most third graders I know, especially the ones who play a lot of video games, could take a driver's ed class and then pass the test.

Zoogleplex said it I think - driver training is the best most cost effective way to reduce casualties. But you can't sell a consumer a car every five years if the consumer knows how to operate and maintain their vehicle. Unless they're just like, you know, ballering.
posted by headless at 12:10 AM on April 27, 2007

Interesting no one mentioned the part at the end of the article about increasing roof strength. Five bucks worth of steel to make a proper roll cage would probably accomplish far more than this electronic gadget. Maybe they could decorate it or put a hook on there for your dry cleaning so people wouldn't mind as much.
posted by inthe80s at 6:12 AM on April 27, 2007

mdonley's link is indeed great.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 6:22 AM on April 27, 2007

Driver training absolutely needs to be improved. Unfortunately, the trend appears to be heading in the opposite direction.

Driver training today (at least in my neck of the woods) seems to consist of a few weeks at some private "driving academy" staffed by a couple of local moonlighting high-school teachers. They spend a few nights teaching the written test, then the rest of the time driving around town to give the kids the basics...like coming to a full stop at lights, using the turn signals, and a cursory attempt at parallel parking.

The only real reason kids have to take this training is to be exempt from the driving test when they go for their license.

On the other end of the age spectrum, I have personally witnessed an elderly man administered (and fail) an eye test 4 times in a row. They weren't going to renew his license. But his equally-elderly wife complained because he was the only one who could drive and they needed to get out to get their proscriptions filled.
He got the license.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:15 AM on April 27, 2007

who's legally liable in case the car's software fails?

I'll never forget this pioneering example of computer controlled transport.
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:36 AM on April 27, 2007

inthe80s: Interesting no one mentioned the part at the end of the article about increasing roof strength. Five bucks worth of steel to make a proper roll cage would probably accomplish far more than this electronic gadget.

Uuuuh... an aftermarket steel roll cage costs $1500+. And even with padding, it's more dangerous than nothing if you're not wearing a helmet. (Hurray, your car wasn't crushed, but you caved your skull in on the cage!) But, yeah, manufacturers could integrate more strength into their vehicles' roof structures for, say, $500-1000 (not $5!!).

Now THIS pissed me off: Dodge Magnum classified as truck, which means lesser fuel economy requirements, MUCH lesser safety requirements, lesser roll-over crush resistance, etc. As if it's a fucking farm vehicle...

(And somebody mentioned a 4-point harness as a safety addition... NO!! 4-point is arguably more dangerous than the stock 3-point belts because of the tendency to slip under them in a frontal collision.

Now, 5-points are great, but impractical as many people wouldn't be able to reach the dashboard controls.)

One other thing: Driver training -- how to threshold brake, control a car in a skid, etc. -- is nice and all, but if you're using those skills, you've already messed up. Paying attention is by far the most important thing. It's not so much a training issue as an indoctrination issue.
posted by LordSludge at 9:32 AM on April 27, 2007

If I'm not mistaken, does not a mandate of ESC imply a mandate of ABS by default?


ESC is just a chip and some software that adds some additional functions to your anti-lock brake system.

No. ESC also requires sensors to identify vehicle motion and steering wheel angle.

I think all this mandated safety equipment is a bunch of crap. I don't want ABS (I can threshold brake just fine, thanks)

That's nice. Let's design cars for you, not 99% of the general public.

When ABS was starting to catch on years ago, I asked a professional driver about. He said that HE could stop a car quicker without it, but the vast majority of people would be better off with it.

Personally, I wouldn't buy a car without ABS. It's saved my neck a number of times.

and I sure as hell don't want some idiotic computer making the car do unpredictable things in an emergency situation.

Well, you're in luck, because ESC is designed to do predictable things, not unpredictable things.

As an aside, I really hate airbags.

I was really wary of them. I'd heard the scary stories -- the automaker that had set one off with a pig on top of it, as a test, and blew the pig apart, etc. Then I totaled my car in 1994, and walked away with a cracked rib (from the shoulder belt), a sore wrist and an incredible tiny cut on my forehead ... but my face intact.

I wouldn't hate them so much if they had a much higher threshold for going off when one is belted in.

The Feds required automakers to design airbags to work with unbelted passengers. Which is why the first generation bags deployed with so much force.

Gee, that should only add what, another $1,500 to the price of every car? Great. ABS isn't cheap

Volume drives costs down.

I agree with some of the other observations about requiring increased training, testing, etc. However, I find it somewhat ironic that people here are resisting new advances. If we were talking about different technology, a lot of people here would be mocking people who resisted innovations; but because it's cars, we seem to think that what we have is just fine.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:20 PM on April 27, 2007

LS : Dodge Magnum classified as truck,

Oh holy hell this kind of thing make me so angry. I am so sick of the loopholes that allow this kind of nonsense to happen. The vast majority of people don't read the Interweb or Consumer Reports or whatever, they look at the vehicle and see a car. They don't ever think about their safety because they assume that the government regulates all that kind of thing.

Look at the Dodge Magnum and tell me that it isn't a station wagon. But, station wagons are cars and therefore are subject to all the rules and requirements that are in place to make cars safer.

How 'bout this, we get rid of these stupid rules and provide more cash to farmers who honestly need to by trucks on the cheap?

As the husband of a woman who's whole family is farmers, I'm all about getting them what they need. Sexy, long, hatch-backs ain't it. 1993 Toyota light trucks are a better choice to fill their requirements.
posted by quin at 11:02 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

pmurray63: I want the idiot-proofing to have an off switch, not to not exist. And yes, from my standpoint, that of having taken the time to become familiar with my vehicle's behavior when at and over its limit in a safe environment, electronic stability control would be entirely counterproductive. Most cars, especially front wheel drive models, are designed to be exceptionally predictable no matter what happens to them, and they essentially are.

I can see the argument for an SUV, where an inexperienced driver may roll the car under only moderately strenuous maneuvering, but for a front wheel drive sedan (or a RWD without an awful case of snap oversteer)? Not so much.

Nor do I hate airbags and want them to go away, I just want them to be designed sensibly to not deploy in a low speed crash with belted passengers. Now that they're getting smarter, they're not so awful.

Basically, I think that substitutes for proper driving are counterproductive. Especially ESC, since it only serves to create a new failure mode which did not before exist and serves to make vehicles which are already designed to be exceptionally predictable less so, making things more dangerous for those who know how to drive a car properly.

I would not mind these things being either a) a mandated "default" option, with someone who really wanted to able to order a car without them, or b) being easily disabled by the owner of the car.

But really, we would be better off investing the money in driver training. Most drivers don't know how to recover from a spin, making them incredibly dangerous on wet or icy roads. ESC will not save you when the roads are very slick, and in some cases can even disable your vehicle. I know several people with new cars who literally could not move them from the road under their own power due to the moronic design of stability control modules that could not be turned off. Way to create a traffic hazard! In other cases, it simply made the vehicle more unpredictable, and thus less recoverable, as it attempted to brake with the various wheels to keep the car in line.

Perhaps it would work OK on new snow, I can't say, but on ice, it ain't pretty. Drivers would be better off learning to drive properly, which would allow them to control the car in all conditions, rather than relying on the car to control itself, which it can never do as effectively as a decent driver.
posted by wierdo at 12:40 AM on April 28, 2007

quin, I think you have it wrong: The Dodge Magnum isn't a truck to get out of car safety requirements; it's a truck so that its fuel economy helps offset the big gas-sucking pickups that share its classification.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:04 PM on April 28, 2007

Yeah, I should have been more clear about that. I know that it's a fuel efficiency thing, but since many buyers are clearly willing to pay out the ass for non-efficient vehicles (see all the non work required full-sized trucks on the road today.) and not look at the safety features, I figured it would be a good thing to harp on.

What infuriates me is that the loopholes that allow for this sort of thing are designed to keep certain kinds of vehicles inexpensive; Specifically farm trucks; More specifically, trucks that are going to spend most of their time driving sedately down dirt roads, as opposed to cruising at highway speeds on an interstate. These kinds of vehicles are not going to need the state of the art in brakes and airbags. They just need to be cheap and be able to haul a lot of weight.

So the rules were written in such a way that they didn't have to apply the restrictive fuel economy standards, because they were going to be a specialty item targeted at making a very small subset of driver's lives easier.

Unfortunately the automotive industries caught on to this loophole quickly and started using it to make "cars" and even worse family vehicles (AKA "station wagons") like the Magnum under the guise of light trucks.

So yeah, you are absolutely correct in pointing out that it's a fuel thing. The problem is that with that, came a lot of other relaxations in rules that keep people safe.

And right now, someone is rocketing down an interstate in a "car" that they think is going to have all the safety features that every other car has. And they could very well die because of that belief.
posted by quin at 10:32 PM on April 28, 2007

Mmmmm... donuts! *drools*
posted by ZachsMind at 11:02 PM on April 28, 2007

Coming soon, iTrip ESC
posted by acro at 11:07 PM on April 28, 2007

"and even worse family vehicles (AKA "station wagons") like the Magnum"

I have never, ever seen a Magnum being driven by a "family" or by a single person, male or female, who is of the "family" type.

Every Magnum I've ever seen, without exception, has been driven by some dude who's trying to ooze "badass meets hipster, but mostly badass." It's a Hemi, dudes, it's a grown-up Hot Wheels car. Check out my badass style vibe, hear my Flowmasters rumble. (This may be related to my location, of course.)

I'll say one thing for Dodge, it looks like their demographic research is working just fine.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:23 AM on April 29, 2007

Oh and stavros, quin: '63 Ford Falcon, 3 on the tree, 2-mile-long frozen lake. Get a good running start, then try to turn as many donuts as possible.

I believe you two can grok that joy. :)

LordSludge: YES. Paying attention is the #1 thing most people seem to have trouble with. I found that after I took the AMA motorcycle RiderCourse, that training totally changed the way I drove a car as well as the bike; paying attention is the one thing they hammered into our heads. "Pay attention, or you will probably get killed." It was so ingrained in the training that the stickers we got at completion said: "I improved my odds." Odds of staying alive on my bike, that means. Pretty bleak, huh? For completing and passing a rider training course. "Hey, I've got a better chance of not being dead by the end of this year."

If they'd say that every 10 minutes during car driver's ed, maybe things would be a little different.

Maybe cars are TOO safe, hm? (kidding)
posted by zoogleplex at 12:30 AM on April 29, 2007

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