A common misconception is that Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) stop your car in a shorter distance. While this can be true under certain circumstances, ABS’ main goal is to maintain steering control under hard braking.
Conventional brake systems allow drivers to apply enough force to lock the wheels, preventing rotation. The resulting friction between tire and road surface produces tremendous stopping power.
However, the static wheels can no longer guide the vehicle directionally. Vehicles with locked brakes often spin out of control, crashing into barriers, other cars, or even rolling over.
Experienced drivers learned that they could maintain control if they pumped the brakes quickly, avoiding a total lock up. Unfortunately, most drivers are unable to perform this operation under emergency conditions.
The concept of ABS was first used to develop brakes for aircraft. Bosch and Mercedes-Benz began joint research on automotive applications in the 1930s, and eventually became the first companies to offer ABS on a large production basis in the late ‘70s.
Modern Anti-lock Braking systems can sense when wheels are about to lock. Brake pressure is lessened until the wheel starts spinning too fast—then more pressure is applied, and the cycle repeats until the vehicle comes to a stop.
Typical systems pump the brakes up to 20 times per second, faster than humanly possible. Understandably, even average drivers stop better with ABS cars, than highly skilled drivers in non-equipped vehicles.
Studies have shown that ABS can reduce the risk of crashes up to 35 percent. It is most effective on high-traction surfaces such as concrete or asphalt. Care must be taken when hard-braking on loose surfaces such as gravel or snow.
Otherwise, Anti-lock Braking Systems are easy to use; just step on the brake pedal and steer away from trouble.