What is ESP on a car?

Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) is a life-saving piece of technology – but what does it do?

Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) is fitted to every new car on sale, along with most models sold over the past decade, and can also be referred to as Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Hailed with saving thousands of lives, this clever technology has been one of the biggest leaps in automotive safety and was made mandatory for every car sold in the EU in 2014.

Having ESP fitted can reduce your chance of being in a fatal crash by up to 25%, according to UK-based research. In Sweden, ESP is said to have accounted for a 32% drop in wet-weather collisions. So what makes ESP/ESC so beneficial for safety? Read our guide to find out.

What are the differences between ESC and ESP?

A point of some confusion is that the technology is known by several different names – but they actually do the same job. Along with ESP and ESC, you might also see VDC (vehicle dynamic control), VSA (vehicle stability assist) or DSC (dynamic stability control) in a model’s equipment list.

Some brands like to give the system their own stamp: Volvo uses the name Dynamic Stability & Traction Control (DTSC), while Porsche calls it PSM (Porsche Stability Management – not to be mixed up with PASM, which stands for Porsche Active Suspension Management and describes Porsche’s adaptive suspension system.

The once-common initials TCS (traction-control system) or ASR (Antriebsschlupfregelung, ‘drive slip control’, in German) are used for wheelspin-preventing technology and were more common before being integrated into electronic stability control in most models.

How does ESP work?

ESP includes several pieces of technology that work together to keep the car safely on the road, in control and heading in the direction you wanted. This umbrella includes anti-lock brakes (ABS) and traction control (TCS).

As you steer, accelerate and brake, numerous sensors monitor the car’s behaviour and send data to a central computer. This computer then compares what you’re doing to how the car is responding. If, for example, you’re steering sharply to the left or right, but the car is ploughing on straight ahead (perhaps because the road is very wet or icy), the computer can recognise this and instruct the car’s systems to step in and help.



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