Anti lock Braking System (ABS) in India

We all know that all the high end versions of the cars now produced in India have a special feature called Anti lock Braking system. Let us examine as to how this ABS feature really contributes to the driving behaviour in India.

On the Indian highways it is common to find people who routinely or suddenly cross the roads without any prior notice to the incoming vehicles. This commonly happens in the villages that criss cross the Indian highways. During such situations, it is inevitable for the driver to brake immediately to avoid collision. During any such emergency , it is more often noticed that the driver presses the brake pedal very hard to achieve maximum Braking to come to halt. But more often , this sudden braking results in the vehicle skidding on the road . i.e when the brakes are fully applied , the tyres are locked (do not move) but owing to the inertia of the vehicle , the vehicle still moves forward ( similar to a skating behaviour). The vehicle skidding during emergency braking can result in 2 scenarios.

Top car with ABS steers successfully

ABS in action

First scenario includes a case where the driver intended to stop the vehicle but because of the skidding behaviour, the vehicle halts after traversing a longer distance. This could even mean a direct impact to the pedestrian who crosses or a collision with another vehicle .

The Second scenario is that if the driver intends to avoid the object or the pedestrian in front by steering the vehicle out of the way , the locked wheels due to excessive braking would render the steering wheel impossible to steer. Thus the driver would not be able to turn his vehicle to avoid a collision .

The above situations occur during excessive braking or in technical terms ,whenever the amount of braking force crosses a braking threshold, the vehicle would get into a skidding pattern.The braking threshold for skidding varies among different kinds of road surfaces. To avoid this skidding during excessive braking ,the ABS or the antilock braking system was introduced. As the name suggests, this system works by reducing the locking of the wheels when excessive braking
occurs. Whenever the driver stamps hard on the brakes, the electronics first detects whether the braking threshold of the car has been crossed or not. In case the threshold is crossed, the ABS system selectively releases the brake on one of the 4 wheels to avoid skidding.The ABS also introduces a pulse braking behaviour where the brakes are applied and released for short durations to avoid the locking of the wheels. This would result in an effective application of the brakes and the vehicle would come to a halt even as the driver is able to successfully steer his way to avoid a collision.It is important to note that the control on the vehicle is significantly improved when the ABS is in action.

ABS in Action 2

Looking at the Indian scenario, the vehicles get into a skidding behaviour only when the sudden hard braking is applied at high speeds >100kmh. It is rarely possible for the vehicle to skid in the city limits as the average speed is only around 30km/hr. Even if a car skids inside the city limits as a result of sudden braking, the car would immediately come to a halt within a few metres owing to low speeds. Hence it is advisable to wisely choose the ABS variant feature of the car before one thinks of buying it. The ABS version for most of the cars costs an extra Rs 50000 to 1 lakh in many car brands. So if you plan to use you vehicle only within the city limits and do not bother to frequently travel long distances on the highways, going for a car with ABS might necessarily not be helpful as this feature would be grossly underutilized.

Another word of caution is that once you decide to choose the ABS variant, you need to also get used to the ABS driving behaviour during emergency braking. Sometimes the driver who experiences the pulsing behaviour of the ABS for the first time may necessarily not realise the extra control he gets to turn/steer the vehicle and this may lead to a panic situation. Also at high speeds if the driver steers (to avoid collision) at a very hard angle during the ABS being active , the vehicle could also overturn. But rest assured, the new systems do not become active unless the braking thresholds cross in a vehicle and provide effective control at high speeds.

The Electronic control of the braking system in the ABS feature raises questions of the machine taking control of the vehicle’s braking. Research proves that an experienced driver who is aware of the braking threshold of his vehicle usually brakes within the braking threshold to avoid collisions. An interesting finding reveals that race drivers have normally been able to brake as effectively as the cars equipped with ABS. Sometimes the stopping distances are lesser when race drivers drove the car without the ABS. So think carefully when you decide to go for a car with ABS (Antilock braking systems). If you generally drive carefully and are pretty experienced in driving, ABS might not be compulsory.

Check out some videos on youtube that illustrate ABS in action

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