Electronic Stability Control Expert Presentation

In this presentation, automotive engineer, Peter J. Leiss, P.E., provides an overview on Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems, including information on how ESC systems work, their abilities and limitations. Mr. Leiss is regularly retained to investigate vehicle crashes to determine if vehicle safety systems functioned properly.

Electronic Stability Control Expert Witness

Presentation Outline

  • What is Electronic Stability Control (ESC)?
  • What conditions does ESC try to correct?
  • A brief timeline of ESC
  • Reduction in fatal crash risk attributed to ESC
  • What are trade names for ESC?
  • Crash types common to ESC failure
  • How it works
  • Types of ESC failures
  • System limitations
  • Other considerations

What is Electronic Stability Control?

An electro-mechanical system that senses:

  1. the driver’s intended path
  2. the vehicle’s actual path

and uses brake and throttle control to alter the actual path to meet the intended path.

  • ESC is augmented on some vehicles with Roll Over Mitigation or Roll Stability Control. This is an additional algorithm in the ESC unit that focuses on preventing a vehicle from rolling over, not directional stability.
  • Another enhancement of ESC is Trailer Sway dampening (TSD). This algorithm senses when a trailer is causing sway and uses the vehicles, and sometimes the trailers, brakes to control the vehicle trailer combination

What conditions does ESC try to correct?

Electronic Stability Control Correcting Conditions

A brief timeline of ESC


  • 1995: Mercedes-Benz makes ESC standard on some European sold S–class vehicles

  • 1996: Mercedes-Benz adapts ESC to the A-class to pass the European “Moose Test”

  • 1998: BMW makes ESC standard equipment on most European sold models

  • 1999: Mercedes-Benz makes ESC standard equipment on all models

  • 2003: NTSB study results in recommendation that ESC be fitted to all 15 passenger vans

  • 2004: Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, and GM announce ESC will be standard on their SUV’s within 2 years

  • 2007: Final Ruling by NHTSA for FMVSS 126: Mandated ESC be standard equipment on every light vehicle (less than 10,000 lb GVWR) by Model Year 2012

Reduction in fatal crash risk attributed to ESC


Overall ESC is associated with a 33% reduction in fatal crash involvement risk, including a:

  • 20% reduction in multiple vehicle fatal crash risk
  • 49% reduction single vehicle fatal crash risk
  • 53% reduction for SUV’s

SUV fatal crash involvement risk was lowered by:

  • 57% for multiple-vehicle roll-over crashes
  • 75% for single-vehicle roll-over crashes
  • 38% for multiple-vehicle crashes on wet/slippery roads
  • 63% for single vehicle crashes on wet/slippery roads

What are trade names for ESC?

  • AdvanceTrac – Ford, Mercury, Lincoln
  • Dynamic Stability Control – Aston Martin, BMW, Jaguar, Rover, Volvo
  • Electronic Stability Control – Honda, Hyundai, Kia
  • Electronic Stability Program – Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz
  • Porsche Stability Management
  • StabiliTrak – General Motors
  • Vehicle Dynamic Control – Infiniti, Nissan
  • Vehicle Stability Assist – Acura
  • Vehicle Stability Control – Lexus, Toyota

Crash types common to ESC failure (in no particular order)

  • Run off the road
  • Rollover
  • Cross over collision
  • Spinout

Download the entire slide deck in the Details section of this page.

Featured Expert

Peter J. Leiss, Automotive Engineer & Crash Expert

Peter J. Leiss, P.E., C.F.E.I., C.V.F.I.

Automotive Engineer & Crash Expert
PJ is an expert in vehicle engineering and crash reconstruction. He commonly investigates and testifies in matters pertaining to vehicle crashworthiness, vehicle performance/handling dynamics, and… read more.


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