WASHINGTON -- Federal safety researchers say they have found a reliable way to test the effectiveness of electronic stability control systems. Some safety experts believe the finding lays the groundwork for a future requirement that electronic stability control be installed on most new vehicles.
Joseph Kanianthra, associate administrator for vehicle safety research at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said it is not the agency's job to mandate any particular technology. Nor does it necessarily intend to establish a handling standard for cars and trucks, he said.
But NHTSA could use the test to set some performance metrics that cars and trucks would best be able to meet by installing electronic stability control, Kanianthra said.
Even without such a push from government, automakers have been announcing plans to dramatically expand installation of electronic stability control systems over the next few years, especially in trucks.
Jim Gill, spokesman for Continental Automotive Systems North America, a top supplier of electronic stability controls, said the NHTSA research will be a further boost for the systems, regardless of how the findings are ultimately used.
Government, safety groups and the industry have had a growing interest in the systems, which are designed to help drivers stay in control of a vehicle and avoid some rollover situations. They rely on sensors, individual wheel braking and automatic throttle adjustments.
In preliminary research last year, NHTSA said electronic stability control was effective in reducing single car crashes by 35 percent and single SUV crashes by 67 percent.
Other organizations and companies have found similar results.
NHTSA's latest research on tests that can be used to measure electronic stability control effectiveness was presented this week at the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles international conference. The conference is in Washington this year and is producing its customary flurry of safety research papers.
To test the effectiveness of electronic stability control in vehicles, NHTSA researchers tried 12 maneuvers and found varying degrees of usefulness among them. They concluded that an emergency maneuver called "sine with dwell" was best. It is similar to the so-called moose test in Europe, a sudden swerve one way and then the other.
They also said more research is needed.
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