Twenty five years ago, Bosch introduced the groundbreaking electronic stability programme (ESP), which it launched in the 1995 Mercedes-Benz S-Class. ESP is arguably one of the most important innovations for automobiles, and 82% of all new vehicles today are equipped with the programme. It was 64% in 2017.

The German engineering giant estimates that the ESP has saved over 15,000 lives in the European Union over the past 25 years, and prevented under half a million accidents involving personal injury. Bosch has produced more than 250 million anti-skid systems to date.

For those whose lives have been saved by ESP, you’ve got Bosch to thank. The system works in tandem with the car’s anti-lock braking system and traction control system, and detects vehicle skidding movements and actively counteracts them.

More specifically, ESP uses the car’s dynamics to determine whether the car is going in the same direction as the steering input. If there are discrepancies between these two factors, it intervenes. Bosch says the explanation may seem simple, but the process is in fact complex.

ESP uses “smart sensors” to compare steering angle and vehicle trajectory 25 times a second. When things don’t add up, ESP automatically reduces engine torque and applies braking force to individual wheels. This helps restore vehicle stability and would ideally prevent the car from skidding into ditches, barriers, other vehicles or even pedestrians.

Bosch board of management member Harald Kroeger said “ESP has taken road safety to a new level,” and the company even offers customised ESP systems for all powertrain types and for vehicles of all kinds, including two wheelers – in 2013, it launched the motorcycle stability control (MSC) system.

As the industry moves towards autonomous driving, Bosch reiterated that ESP is the foundational technology for many driver assistance systems. “Whether new or tried and tested, Bosch technologies alert and support drivers in critical situations. And increasingly, they are in a position to assume monotonous and fatiguing tasks. This gives us an opportunity to further reduce the number of accidents and road deaths,” Kroeger said.