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Notes From the Road

Active Safety Technologies - Discern the definitions of systems that help you handle the unforeseen.
By The Editors/

Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)
What it is: Vehicle Stability Control is a computer-controlled system that helps the driver retain control of the vehicle during extreme cornering or in other emergency situations.

How it works: VSC utilizes technology from ABS and Traction Control, along with accelerometer technology from aerospace. A sophisticated microprocessor compares the rotational speed of the wheels, the throttle position, steering angle "yaw" (turning motion) and other factors to determine if the vehicle has suddenly lost grip in a corner and begun to "understeer" (where the front wheels slip or "plow" straight ahead) or "oversteer" (where the rear wheels slip or "fishtail"). When this happens, the microprocessor sends signals to the brakes and throttle to help bring the car back on line. Engine output may be momentarily reduced and one or more wheels may be braked to help restore control.

What it feels like: Depending on the system, VSC may work seamlessly and invisibly to lend a helping hand when the driver has attempted to exceed the vehicle's handling capabilities, or it may be more abrupt, noticeably slowing the vehicle. The best-engineered systems work so quickly and accurately that the driver scarcely senses they're at work.

How it benefits the driver: VSC is one of the most effective electronic "helping hands" for drivers invented so far. By making the vehicle's handling more predictable in challenging situations, VSC can help the driver better maintain control and avoid an accident.

Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM)
What it is: Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), currently available on only a few higher-end vehicles, is a step beyond VSC in technology and performance. VDIM enhances handling, traction and braking systems that normally react to vehicle driving conditions by anticipating tire slippage before a skid, slide or wheel spin occurs and making corrections in a smooth, progressive way.

How it works: VDIM uses an active control strategy that takes its cues from a comprehensive range of sensors involved in Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRC), Brake Assist (BA), Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) and Electronic Throttle Control with intelligence (ETC-i). In addition, three new technologies are employed that are central to the effectiveness of VDIM: Electric Power Steering (EPS), Electronically Controlled Brakes (ECB), and in the GS 430 only, Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS). VDIM integrates all of these elements with powerful proprietary software to help seamlessly manage the total vehicle dynamic package.

What it feels like: Tight integration of all dynamic systems makes VDIM feel transparent to the driver. Since VDIM predicts and then works to prevent loss of vehicle control, the most noticeable characteristic of the system's operation is the vehicle's unusually predictable handling.

How it benefits the driver: With all of the traction control technologies working together under the VDIM "umbrella," handling smoothness is dramatically enhanced. VDIM helps to improve handling and driving pleasure, even in the most challenging conditions.

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