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CarTech: What Does This Mean?

Cars today, like most forms of modern technology, come with terms and names that can be bewildering to the casual observer. Yet a cars salesperson will rattle them of without explaining them or expecting you, the prospective buyer, to just “know” what it all means…

airbagsSomething we’ve seen in cars for close to twenty years now, is this: SRS Airbag. By now we should all know what an airbag does (basically explodes a pillow from the steering wheel and other locations to provide a form of protection in an impact) however the other part of the name, SRS, is quite simple. Supplementary Restraint System; meaning it’s a backup to the two primary safety factors. One being you, the driver, being able to keep yourself out of trouble and the other is the engineering already built in.

ABS is another that’s become familiar; Anti-Lock Braking System. This is also pretty simple: when you hit the stop pedal, a combined system of  hydraulics and electronics engage and disengage the brakes rapidly, preventing the brake pad from constantly gripping the brake disc and causing a skid. This aids the driver in steering the car (hopefully) out of a collision situation. Two, three, four channel sensors may be batted around and this refers to how many corners of the car are being read; for example a four channel sensor reads all four wheels whereas a three channel may read the two rear wheels separately and the front together. Many drivers interpret the pulsating of the barke pedal, from the system working, as a fault. absBrake Assist is a complement to this; a computer sensor reads a potential emergency situation and automatically increases brake pedal pressure, so when a driver stabs the brake pedal at the last minute, there’s already enough pressure activated and also tries to minimise the braking distance.

Traction controlTCS/ASR are for Traction Control System/Anti Slip Regulation. The most common applications are in decreasing wheel spin under acceleration, generally from stop signs and traffic lights or when the computer system connected detects lack of traction in certain road conditions. The system may reduce power or increase brake force at the wheel corner that’s losing grip. Traction control is also most often seen as an adjunct to ABS.

Torque Vectoring is one slowly creeping into the performance and four wheel/all wheel drive side; to use a standard front engined/rear wheel drive system, the rear wheels are driven by a shaft connected to the gearbox and differential ( which then sends engine’s output to the left and/or right wheels. As “diffs” are a purely mechanical environment, torque vectoring needs an electronic system to vary the amount of torque between the driven wheels. In a performance application, this would add more torque to a wheel that requires more grip to help in handling and acceleration.

Collision Avoidance is another; a radar system is employed by the car to read the gap between your car and a vehicle in front and if that vehicle is read as getting closer whilst your vehicle is not braking, it then sounds an alert. As a rule, the systems also offers the driver a variety of preset distances, adjustable by the press of a button.

If you’re in the process of buying a car and the salesperson says these and you’re unsure, ask them to explain it further; you deserve that courtesy.