The Development of Traction Control
A car which has lost control and is skidding off the road is a dangerous scenario not only for all the occupants of the vehicle, but also for pedestrians and other drivers. Various different technologies have been developed which aim to help the driver gain control in such a situation and bring the car to a safe stop. One of those is traction control, a very popular safety feature which can be found in many modern vehicles.
Traction control is made possible thanks to the ABS and it works on the same principles on every car even though it is often found by different names such as traction control (TC), electronic stability program (ESP) or dynamic stability control (DSC).
How Does Traction Control Work?
Due to most cars on the road having ABS, the vehicle is able to monitor at all times how fast each wheel is turning. When a car is skidding, one or more wheels are slipping across the road, spinning at different speeds compared to the other ones. When traction control is active, the system controls the speed of all the tires, making sure that all the wheels are spinning at the same speed.
There is very little input required from the driver. The system can decide for itself what the best course of action is. Initially, it will simply attempt to brake the out-of-control wheel in order to slow it down, thus allowing the tread to start rolling on the surface of the ground again. If this is not sufficient, the system will then begin to reduce engine power and torque until the car slows down enough for the tire to gain traction.
Turning Off Traction Control
Unlike most other safety features, traction control does come with the ability to turn it off, either partially or completely. Many drivers prefer it this way because they prioritize having complete control of their vehicles over the ability to drive safe cars. They want to be in charge of all the braking, shifting and handling that the car does.
That is not why traction control can be turned off, though. It is possible to disable TC because there are certain situations where it can actually be a hindrance instead of helpful. One good example is when a wheel is stuck in snow in mud. In order to get it out, the tire needs to spin and find some solid ground to attach to, but traction control would not let it do this under normal circumstances.