The Next Big Safety Innovation: Emergency Steer Assist Helps Drivers Avoid Collisions


We’re starting to hear about features that will help drivers avoid certain car accidents, such as Ford’s Collision Warning System and Volvo’s City Safety (stops a vehicle from a low-speed impact). And according to Continental AG, the next big thing is on its way – the ability to avoid collisions at normal driving speeds.

Continental has developed its Emergency Steer Assist (ESA), which is suitable for vehicles that come equipped with electronic power steering and an adjustable suspension. Here’s how it works: the vehicle’s front radar first feeds information to the chassis computer. This, in turn, is calculated into closing rates and how likely it how be to perform an evasive maneuver or if a collision could take place. What’s cool about this technology is that is stiffens the suspension and offers torque assist in steering efforts that attempt to induce correcting steering maneuvers from the driver.

It’s the last part of this equation that’s so unique to this type of driving safety feature. “If the driver of a vehicle traveling at high speed has gone beyond the last possible point where braking would have an effect, it may still be possible to avoid an accident through steering, or by taking evasive action. This possibility is not yet being actively incorporated into driving safety,” said Dr. Peter Laier, Vice President of the Chassis Components for Continental.

In order for ESA to work properly, a vehicle must be fitted with sensors that monitor the road as far ahead as possible. The video images from the camera systems are combined with radar signals, which will be sent to the vehicle’s chassis. This will teach the vehicle to learn to “see” oncoming hazard situations before a collision takes place, and will send the appropriate correcting steering maneuvers to the driver.

Watch for this technology to come to a car near you in the next two to four years. Until then, you’ll just have to keep your eyes on the road and pay attention.