Key safety features of a car to help in buying decisions

maninder small photo

CarToq member Maninder Singh, pursuing his engineering, is a keen auto enthusiast. Here he helps us understand some of the key safety features of a car that should help buyers evaluate their options better.

Today’s market is flooded with numerous cars boasting their exclusive features and luxury elements to get through the competition. But there’s one common thing about all of them: safety features. The safety of the cars has become necessary considering the driving conditions.

Rather than being just a part of high-end luxury cars, most of the features like ABS, EBD, airbags, ESP, traction control etc have become a part of common and affordable cars. But here in India an average buyer is more concerned about looks, size, comfort, performance and most importantly about the mileage of the car, thus safety comes last.

Here some of these features explained in brief to make buyers more informed and concerned about safety.

ABS (Anti Lock Braking System)

As the name suggests, this system prevents the tyres from locking while braking. Thus it’s helpful in providing a better braking experience. ABS generally offers improved vehicle control and decreases stopping distances on dry and slippery surfaces.

safety first photo

A simple idea guides the mechanism. Maximum retarding force is obtained when the wheel is just on the verge of slipping (locking), but does not lock actually. Thus besides covering lesser distance than the non ABS equipped cars, drivers can actually steer the car even while braking hard.

ABS becomes necessary while driving on curvy roads especially in hilly areas. However, on loose surfaces like gravel or snow-covered pavement, an ABS can significantly increase braking distance, although still improving vehicle control.

This safety feature is still an optional feature in most of the hatchbacks and mid size sedans in India. But with the rising trend, even TVS has launched the first Indian two wheeler with ABS with the Apache RTR ABS (180 cc).

EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution)

This is a technology that automatically varies the amount of force applied to each of a vehicle’s brakes, based on road conditions, speed etc. It is always coupled with ABS.

EBD applies braking power to each wheel in order to maximize stopping power while maintaining the control of vehicle. The front wheels of the car carry more weight than rear and EBD distributes less braking power to the rear brakes so the rear brakes do not lock up thus avoiding skid.

Airbags

An airbag is a vehicle safety device that is designed to inflate rapidly during an automobile collision thus preventing the passengers from striking interior objects such as the steering, windows or dashboard.

The first commercial designs were introduced in passenger automobiles during the 1970s but with limited success. Manufacturers emphasize that Airbags are not an alternative to seat belts and only supplement seat belts.

Thus the term ‘Supplemental Restraint system’ or SRS is commonly used for them. These too are still an optional feature in most of the Indian hatchbacks and mid size sedans.

ESP (Electronic Stability Program)

ESP is a technology that improves vehicle’s stability by detecting and minimizing skids. When a loss in steering control is detected by ESP, it automatically applies brakes to help (steer) the vehicle where the driver intends to go which is determined by measuring the steering angle.

Brakes are applied to wheels individually in a fashion to create a torque about the vertical axis thus opposing the skid till the control of vehicle is regained. Some ESP systems also reduce the engine power during detection of any loss of control.

Though this system doesn’t improve vehicle’s cornering performance but does help a lot in minimizing loss of steering control. This feature is there only in premium segment cars.

Traction Control

This system is designed to prevent loss of traction of wheels on the road. It maintains control of the vehicle when excessive throttle is applied by the driver and the vehicle is unable to cope with the amount of torque.

To regain the control, this system can,

  • Reduce fuel supply to one or more cylinders
  • Brake one or more wheels,
  • Close the throttle if vehicle is fitted with ‘Drive by Wire technology’

This is a useful feature especially in wet, icy or snowy conditions. During off-roading this system is helpful as it directs torque to the wheels having more traction thus making off-roading a delightful experience. This system is popular in premium segment only.