Braking Time Gets High-tech

By: Anthony Fontanelle

Brake technology these days are going the extra mile to offer more advanced services. Brakes are indubitably crucial, that is. They are the first to enter driver's mind when road problems occur. They just step on the brakes and the worst could be avoided. However, if the brakes are unreliable, it could spell the worst tragedy on the roads.

Braking is not as easy as it sounds. Panic could lead to skidding and to the loss of steering control. This is the reason why brake manufacturers have been adding sophisticated features to aid drivers to remain in control of the situation while they do the braking. Technologically-advanced brakes could also help drivers in stopping the car more safely.

In most cases, auto owners are unaware of the new braking systems integrated to vehicles. Further, they also have the faintest idea of how they work. use several acronyms like ABS, short for anti-lock brakes; and EBD, which stands for electronic brakeforce distribution.

ABS is used by several passenger cars for several decades now. It uses electronics at each wheel to meticulously "pulse" the brakes faster than any driver physically could during panic stops. This rapid pulsing prevents the brakes from locking up the wheels during difficult, abrupt stops and on some slippery pavements. The problem to be avoided is wheel lockup. The latter can result to skids and thwart drivers from maintaining steering control.

Most of the vehicles these days are equipped with ABS brakes either as a standard or optional feature. The Chevrolet Aveo has ABS brakes for an option. The starting manufacturer's suggested retail price is $10,000. The Hyundai Accent is also using it. It is offered at less than $11,000. One thing about AB brakes is that they only activates in sudden, hard braking when pressure is applied on the brake pedal. It does not activate in milder stops and does not necessarily reduce the distance the car needs to stop.

The EBD, also called electronic brake proportioning, works automatically. It does not need the driver's intervention to distribute braking force among the wheels. Without the EBD, there could be times when brake force is heavily skewed to one side of the car. Such situation results in the pulling to the other side of the car and unnerving the driver. It may even cause a skid.

The EBD tends to be standard on several luxury cars like the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Other vehicles equipped with EBD brakes include the Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota's 4Runner and the Land Cruiser.

Another braking system, which is often blended to EBD, is BA or Brake Assist. BA monitors the braking maneuvers of the driver and if detects that he is doing emergency braking; the system automatically supplements the driver to stop as quickly as possible. This is done by boosting braking power to the highest. It ceases to function immediately after the driver lifts up on the brake pedal. Compared to ABS, BA could improve stopping distances. In addition, studies have shown that BA even helps drivers in stopping more efficiently. BA is standard in many SUVs and luxury cars like the Lexus LS 430, SC 430 and LX 470.

BA is often part of Pre-Collision or Pre-Safe systems. They are designed to prep cars in attaining timely optimum safety performance. As a fact, they could operate efficiently within seconds of impending collisions.

What is forthcoming in the braking technology is for us to find out soon. But one thing is for sure - auto engineers are not done yet with brake sophistication.

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