ABS, ESP, ASR: Do driving aids help on snow?
Electronic driver assistance systems have become commonplace with car manufacturers. If under normal driving conditions these systems significantly improve the vehicle’s active safety, they may well spring a few surprises on snow. Here are a few tips to ensure their effectiveness in winter.
On the same topic
Previously reserved for high performance cars, an increasing number of electronic driver assistance systems are now being installed in cars. The most common are the anti-lock braking system (ABS), emergency brake assist (EBA), anti-slip regulation (ASR) or the electronic stability program (ESP). These sophisticated systems, which act on both the engine and brakes, help drivers to control their vehicle in emergency situations.
If their usefulness has been proven on wet and dry roads, these systems may deliver a few surprises on snow. But is this a reason to disable them whenever it is possible? Certainly not since, combined with high performance winter tyres, they significantly improve tyre grip and traction.
The ABS prevents cars from sliding but increases the braking distance
Except for cars that are over 10 years old, the antilock braking system works well on snow. The downside, however, is that braking distances are doubled, or even tripled on certain surfaces. This is an incentive for drivers to reduce their speed and anticipate slowing down.
However, the ABS may react badly if there is a difference in grip between the left and right wheels. For example, if only half of the road is covered with snow. Undesirable reactions can also be noted on extremely bumpy roads.
ESP: To be disabled with the engine running in low grip conditions
Insofar as possible, the Electronic Stability Program aims to bring the car under control without leaving the road. The system also reduces the risk of under-steering (front wheel skid) and over-steering (rear wheel skid). As soon as the ESP detects that the wheels no longer respond to steering wheel movements, it acts on the relevant wheel(s) until the tyre finds traction again.
When the car is in motion, the ESP reacts quickly on snow. However, when starting and under certain conditions, the anti-slip regulation system can block the car. For example, on a particularly icy road or with hill starts. The latest ESP systems have a position which allows some slip in snow. For older systems, simply disengage the ESP for a few moments and re-engage it once the car is moving.
Winter tyres to optimise the effect of driver assistance systems
Acknowledging that electronic driver assistance systems are commonplace, tyre manufacturers now offer winter tyres that improve their effectiveness.
This is particularly true of Continental, with its ContiWinterContact range. The TS 830 P model is equipped with specific sinusoidal sipes that tend to combine longitudinal and lateral forces. We were able to check the tyre’s efficiency on the Andros Trophy ice circuit at Alpe d’Huez.
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