ABS Braking – How Does it Work?

How does ABS work, and what exactly is ABS braking?

The Anti-lock Braking System has been around for a lot longer than most people think. It was originally used as early as the 1920s as a way to stop aircraft wheels from ‘locking’ up during landings; particularly on wet and icy surfaces. These early systems however, were quite different to the technology in use today.

It’s debatable who invented the modern ABS braking system; with inventors such as Robert Bosch registering an early patent. But these early systems rarely went beyond prototype stages because of the costs involved.

ABS Braking on Motor Cars

abs brakiingIn the early 1970s, the first motor cars equipped with an ABS braking system appeared. Several car manufacturers have laid claim to being the first to implement the system; but initially the cost meant that it was only available on luxury models.

It was Chrysler’s Imperial model, introduced in 1971 however, that became the first production car to feature its ‘Sure-Break’ system.

ABS braking is now a standard feature on most modern cars, but how does it work?

How Does it Work?

If a driver applies too much pressure to the brake pedal, the wheels can stop turning. They ‘lock up’ and lose their grip on the road, resulting in a skid where the driver has no steering control.

In situations like this, the computer controlled ABS system takes over control. Its sensors detect when one of more wheels are turning less than the others. This happens when they are in danger of locking up. It works by momentarily releasing the braking pressure on that wheel, before re-applying it. During sustained braking this process will happen repeatedly until the either the vehicle stops or you release the brake pedal.

The big advantage of this is that you can maintain steering control which you would otherwise not have.

If you are driving at an appropriate speed for the road and weather conditions, and maintaining a safe distance from other traffic; you should never feel the ABS braking system kicking in. If you do experience it taking over, then it’s a sure sign that your driving could do with some improvement!

ABS is one of many ‘safety’ features that car manufacturers are adding to cars. There are devices that:

  • warn you if you start to drift our of your lane
  • brake for you if you fail react to a hazard ahead
  • give warning signal when vehicles move into your blind spots

But should these really be necessary? And are they just taking away the responsibilty of people behind the wheeel to drive in a safe and sensible manner?

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