Anti-skid braking technology gets EU backing

System helps avoid skids on slippery roads, and could be required equipment in Europe and U.S. by 2012.

The European Commission is backing an "e-safety" technology it thinks could help reduce road accidents.

Electronic Stability Control has been pinpointed as the key technology to help reduce road fatalities across Europe, and the European Commission has launched a "Choose ESC!" campaign to raise awareness of the tech in cooperation with the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP).

More than 40,000 people die and more than 1 million are injured on Europe's roads every year. Loss of control--often from skidding--has been identified as a major cause.

ESC detects when a car is about to skid and applies different brake pressure on individual wheels to stabilize the vehicle and avoid a skid developing. It is particularly effective in wet and icy conditions--reducing the risk of accidents by up to 20 percent.

European commissioner for information society, Viviane Reding, said the Commission sees the campaign as the first step toward all new cars being fitted with ESC by 2012.

The take-up of ESC has been relatively low in Europe. Denmark and Sweden have the largest proportion of vehicles fitted with ESC as standard, while Ireland and Malta languish at the bottom with ESC sometimes not even being an option, according to a Euro NCAP survey.

At last month's New York International Auto Show, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a similar regulation will soon be in place in the U.S. The new rules will require U.S. automakers to begin outfitting new cars with ESC systems beginning with the model year 2009. They'll be required as standard equipment on passenger vehicles by model year 2012.

Tim Ferguson reported for Silicon.com in London. CNET News.com's Jennifer Guevin contributed to this report.

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