The electronic stability programme.

Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive


ESP® identifies driving situations approaching critical road-holding limits such as evasive manoeuvres and helps the driver to stabilise the vehicle by braking individual wheels and adjusting the engine output accordingly.


On detecting a driving situation approaching the critical limits of road-holding, ESP® specifically brakes one or more wheels as required by the given situation. The engine torque is also adjusted automatically, if this is deemed necessary by the system. In this way, ESP® helps the driver to restore stability to the vehicle – particularly in bends and in sudden evasive manoeuvres. At the same time, even ESP® can only intervene within the bounds of the physical laws which apply to a moving vehicle. The core element of the stability programme is a yaw velocity sensor. This sensor monitors the vehicle's movement around its vertical axis continuously, comparing the measured actual value with the reference value resulting from the driver's steering input and the vehicle's speed. As soon as the vehicle deviates from this ideal line, ESP® intervenes to nip skidding motions in the bud. ESP® augments the functions of the Antilock Brake System and Acceleration Skid Control by promoting directional stability and road adhesion. Mercedes-Benz is the first manufacturer to have fitted out all of its passenger cars with ESP® as standard. Since the blanket introduction of this technology, the company's passenger cars have been involved in severe accidents much less often than other makes of vehicle. To improve the stability of car/trailer combinations, ESP® trailer stabilisation goes into action on Mercedes-Benz vehicles from a speed of around 65 km/h. ESP® trailer stabilisation uses the sensor system of the ESP® Electronic Stability Program and initiates corresponding countermeasures: it is able to actively damp trailer oscillation with the aid of alternating braking intervention on the front wheels. In most cases this is sufficient to eradicate trailer oscillation and eliminate any danger. In case of very severe trailer oscillation, the system can additionally reduce the engine torque and brake all four wheels of the towing vehicle, in order to leave the critical speed range as quickly as possible.

More detailed information


Changes may have been made since these images and films were produced.

The Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) was premiered in an S-Class in 1995.
Professor Fritz Nallinger, chief engineer and member of the board of management of Daimler-Benz AG, filed a patent back in 1959 for a "control system" designed to prevent drive wheels from spinning through intervention in the engine, transmission or brakes.


Many years were to elapse before this good idea advanced beyond the theoretical stage, however. Neither the necessary sensors nor a control system were available to carry out the stabilising intervention in a matter of seconds. Micro-electronics finally opened the way to further progress, first demonstrating its practical application in the Antilock Brake System (ABS) which was introduced for the first time in the S-Class in 1978. ABS provided the foundation for the development of additional systems. Acceleration Skid Control (ASR – introduced into series production in 1981) duly followed. This was the first system to control the interplay of longitudinal forces between tyres and road surface not only in the course of braking, but also during acceleration, influencing both the brakes and engine torque. 1985 then saw the introduction of the automatic locking differential (ASD) and the innovative 4MATIC four-wheel drive. A common feature of all these systems is that they detect and limit wheel slip with the aid of cutting-edge micro-electronics and hydraulics in order to improve an automobile's so-called longitudinal dynamics.


The engineers at Mercedes-Benz then decided to take things further: their next objective was to improve driving safety in all situations – that is, in bends, during evasive manoeuvres or in connection with other vehicle movements involving levels of lateral dynamics which harbour a high risk of skidding. An ambitious development project was duly launched: under the working title "transversal slip control", the engineers sounded out technical means of detecting a passenger car's skidding motions and reducing such motions through specific intervention in the suspension, engine and transmission. Following comprehensive computer simulations and preliminary investigations, the first trial cars fitted with such a system began road testing in 1987, clocking up thousands of test miles in the following years. At the same time, the invention's suitability for practical application was demonstrated on the driving simulator in Berlin. Here, the Mercedes-Benz engineers sent out 80 male and female drivers at a speed of 100 km/h on an imaginary country road on which they were confronted with four bends covered in treacherous black ice which reduced road adhesion by more than 70%. Without ESP® 78% of the test drives had no chance of keeping the car steady and went into skids which resulted in them being involved in up to three accidents in succession. With the aid of the active driving safety system all of the test drives went off without any skidding and free of any accidents. Understandably, the developers were then keen to test ESP® in practice. Series production development began in 1992. More than 40 engineers from Mercedes-Benz and Bosch cooperated on the pioneering project, which culminated in the launch of production in 1995.


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