Mercedes-Benz has reached another milestone anniversary: 20 years since the invention of the ESP – Electronic Stability Program. Jointly developed in Sweden with Bosch and first introduced in March 1995, it is by far the most significant safety system of modern passenger cars.
The Electronic Stability Programme identifies critical driving situations and specifically applies the brakes to one or more wheels according to the situation and requirements, helping the driver in stabilizing the vehicle. ESP can also adjust the engine output accordingly, its torque to be more precise.
It also reduces the risk of skidding and maintains the vehicle’s directional stability even in critical conditions, for example on surfaces covered by ice or water. Oversteer is corrected by applying brake to the front outer wheel, while understeer is controlled by applying brake to the rear inner wheel.
At the heart of the stability program is a yaw rate measurement unit. It constantly monitors the movement of the vehicle around its vertical axis and compares the actual value which is measured against the specified value, based on the steering input of the driver and the speed. As soon as the vehicle deviates from this ideal line, ESP intervenes and controls any skidding movements as soon as they arise.
Daimler-Benz presented its dynamic handling control FDR in March 1994, just a year later, the system celebrating its official market launch under the current name: Electronic Stability Programme.
The ESP first appeared in March 1995 on a Mercedes-Benz S 600 Coupe (C 140) and a few months later appeared in the S-Class saloon (W 140) and the SL Roadster (R 129). However, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class was the model which had the honour of being equipped with ESP in large unit numbers, in response to the “moose test”.
Things escalated quickly and the ESP’s major safety role was aknowledged by Mercedes-Benz by August 1999, when it became standard-fit equipment on almost all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars.