Automatic Braking Technology

ABS stands for Automatic Braking Technology and is an essential part of any modern vehicle. We want to be sure that the ABS is working in a decent fashion with the car we’re driving. Even new cars should be taken on a test drive to check if their ABS is working properly.

About ABS 

ABS is basically an anti-lock braking system. In many modern car models, this is one of the standard safety features on offer. The function of this system is to prevent the wheels of a car from locking up in case of an imminent collision while driving.

No matter how experienced a driver is, dangerous situations can easily come up when we’re handling a car or any other vehicle. When a car slides or some other issue comes up, our first instinct is usually to hit the brakes. This could cause the wheels to lock up and result in the whole vehicle slipping or skidding dangerously.

With ABS kicking in at the right moment, our wheels wouldn’t lock up, but maintain a grip with the surface below. This is usually the road we’re on, so the vehicle is much less likely to stray off into uneven and potentially dangerous territory.

The Working of ABS

ABS works as a component of the car’s stability system, or the electronic stability control. This is responsible for monitoring the wheels when there’s heavy braking.

With modern cars, there’s usually a sensor attached to each wheel. These intelligent sensors give a signal if a wheel is locking up. In order to stop this, the sensors will make the system release the brakes just for that crucial moment.

After this, ABS is responsible for applying the optimum amount of braking pressure on each wheel. It does so repeatedly and in a continuous manner. This ensures that the braking does take place, but not enough for locking the wheel.

If ABS is active in a car, we might feel a pulsing sensation throughout the brake pedal when we press it. With this anti-lock system, the driver remains in control of their car without running a skidding risk. This also means that the braking distance of the car will increase.

While ABS will not help much if we’re driving straight into an obstacle, it will be essential for safety if we skid on the road. It usually works best when we’re driving on a solid and stable surface. When driving on gravel, snow, or ice, the experience might vary.

The Origins of ABS

This technology was actually invented for preventing aircrafts from skidding on the tarmac. By the 1970s, companies such as Chrysler and Ford had proved this technology’s application for cars.

However, we can track anti-lock braking systems as far back as the 1920s. This was when engineers connected aircraft brakes to the concept of a braking system with an automatic override feature. This system is similar to the modern ABS we have now, preventing the wheel from locking when there’s rapid deceleration or the surface is low-traction.

By the 1950s, this same technology was installed in motorcycles as well. This was probably because of the increased safety risk of skidding and losing traction that a motorcycle driver faces. It’s probably logical that ABS came to motorcycles first and then to cars.

The Development of ABS

During the 1960s, car manufacturers started experimenting with ABS technology on their own products. Among the first viable ABS car systems was the one found in the prototype for the Ford Zodiac. However, many automobile manufacturers had to give up their efforts in this direction due to the high cost.

Finally, Cadillac started offering ABS to its customers in the 1970s, marketing it as a premium feature on certain rear-wheel models. ABS was in the market, but still a mostly uncommon offering for the masses.

After the 1970s, computer-controlled sensors slowly became a part of automobiles. With the increasing concern about automobile safety, ABS rapidly became more popular.

Key Figures In ABS History

The first ABS developer is usually believed to be Gabriel Voisin, a French engineer in the 1920s. It was Tony Wilson-Jones, however, who opposed ABS and believed that it wasn’t necessary. The latter was a part of the British Enfield Cycle Company. This opposition set ABS back quite a bit.

During the 1970s, Robert Bosch purchased several patents for this technology and started a venture with the Mercedes-Benz company. In that decade, most of the ABS systems could be found in Mercedes-Benz models. BMW engineers were instrumental in applying ABS technology to motorcycles in the 1980s. Today, there’s a newer braking technology called the automatic emergency brake system (AEB), which automatically applies the brakes once the sensors senses an impending collision. Read more about it here.

ABS Systems Today

ABS and its related systems are now fairly commonplace and have been so since the 1990s. Most drivers now know of this standard feature, though it was once a premium option. We also have an ABS that deals with acceleration in place of braking. This is just one addition that makes ABS technology more ubiquitous.

Objections against ABS

It might seem like ABS is a technology that every car should have, but experts have debated on its necessity for some time now. The benefits of ABS are not negligible, but the main concern is that of cost. Here’s a brief overview of the other objections against this technology:

  • Risk compensation, which is a theory that drivers of vehicles with ABS will have a tendency towards aggressive driving, as they know they have a safety feature installed. This might mean that any practical benefit of ABS is negated.
  • Skilled drivers can easily control their cars without the need for an automatic system overriding their process.

However, there have been tests by the Highway Data Loss Institute which conclude that this technology is effective in preventing crashes. It’s hence safe to say that ABS systems promote road safety in general.


ABS technology can help to keep you safer when out on the road, so make sure you have the best you can afford. This system is also going to be a key component in the coming self-driving car revolution.