One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century in the field of safety of the Automobile’s, is the traction control system. There has been a significant decrease in the figure of road accidents after the technology was made a standard feature of the Jalopy. Traction control offers drivers the benefit of space-age electronics that improve a car’s contact with the road. Naturally, that’s not saying much about what traction control is; not as much as you’d like to know anyway . So let’s unwrap the secrets of yet another technological splendor of the 21st century..shall we?
In the olden days, drivers had to rely on their skills to prevent the drive wheels from spinning out of control on slippery pavements. Now however, most of the actions of drivers are implemented via computer controls; which means that now, even an amateur driver can very easily and swiftly maneuver on slippery tarmacs, under a relatively high acceleration.
Another interesting fact is that many German vehicle manufacturers call traction control by its original German name: ASR traction control.
ASR stands for “Acceleration Slip Regulation.” I’m guessing not many of you will not be familiar with this term.
First of all, What is traction?
Traction is simply the force of friction between the drive wheels treads and the tarmac. It is important to be able to compute the traction, because if the propulsive force exerted by the wheel is greater than the wheel’s traction, the wheel will skid, and the car may “spin out”.
Okay, But when do traction control system kicks in?
Now, here’s a situation: suppose you are driving on a steep hill and the tarmac is covered with snow. Now, due to some reason you are forced to stopyour car which is still on the steep hill! If you have ever faced this situation you know what I’m talking about. As the gravity is pulling car backwards and engine is twisting the wheel to move forward against the slippery ice, the wheels often start spinning wildly as the traction (or the adhesive force) between rubber and tarmac is very less. It is at that very(frightful) moment when traction control system kicks in to accelerate the car swiftly without slipping.
Still finding it difficult to visualise? watch this:
This system also comes into action when you are racing with tonnes of horsepower at your foot. At the start of a race, you might thrust your foot on full throttle to get a speedy start. Instead what happens is, due to enormous horsepower coming onto the wheels and due to the car’s inertia, you often end up with a couple of wildly smoking wheels without moving an inch forward.
I got it but how does it works?
Traction control works at the opposite end of the scale from ABS — dealing with acceleration rather than deceleration. Traction-control systems utilize the same wheel-speed sensors employed by the antilock braking system. By adding modules and sensors, the system can be expanded to include these newer technologies. The speed sensor of ABS provides the feed of rotation speed of all four wheels, to the computing module of traction control system. When system senses that one or more wheels are moving with different rotational speed relatively, it pumps the breaks to control the slip and if necessary it also reduce the engine power by reducing the amount of fuel or charge.
In the case of traction control, the basic ABS system — as well as other components in the vehicle — requires some modification. To begin with, the old-style accelerator cable is typically replaced by an electronic drive-by-wire connection (although some older systems still use a mechanical accelerator cable), meaning the mechanical hook-up between the accelerator pedal and the throttle ceases to exist. Instead, a sensor converts the position of the accelerator pedal into an electrical signal, which the control unit (similar to the one used in ABS) uses to generate a control voltage. The standard ABS hydraulic modulator is also expanded to include a traction control component.
In short, with the help of sensors & programming, the rotation speed of the wheels are controlled(by the computer and not the driver) and optimized to maximize traction, when required.
Okay one last thing, does traction control system have the ability to increase traction?
Nope, many people misguidedly believe that traction control will prevent their vehicle from getting stuck in the snow or has ability to increase the traction. This couldn’t be true, it just attempts to prevent a vehicle’s wheels from slipping dangerously.