Anti-lock braking system

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An anti-lock braking system (ABS) is a safety system that allows the wheels on a motor vehicle to continue interacting tractively with the road surface as directed by driver steering inputs while braking, preventing the wheels from locking up (that is, ceasing rotation) and therefore avoiding skidding.

An ABS generally offers improved vehicle control and decreases stopping distances on dry and slippery surfaces for many drivers; however, on loose surfaces like gravel or snow-covered pavement, an ABS can significantly increase braking distance, although still improving vehicle control.[1]

Since initial widespread use in production cars, anti-lock braking systems have evolved considerably. Recent versions not only prevent wheel lock under braking, but also electronically control the front-to-rear brake bias. This function, depending on its specific capabilities and implementation, is known as electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), traction control system, emergency brake assist, or electronic stability control (ESC).



Early systems

The ABS was first developed for aircraft use in 1929 by the French automobile and aircraft pioneer, Gabriel Voisin. An early system was Dunlop's Maxaret system, which was introduced in the 1950s and is still in use on some aircraft models.[2] These systems use a flywheel and valve attached to a hydraulic line that feeds the brake cylinders. The flywheel is attached to a drum that runs at the same speed as the wheel. In normal braking, the drum and flywheel should spin at the same speed. However, if a wheel were to slow down, then the drum would do the same, leaving the flywheel spinning at a faster rate. This causes the valve to open, allowing a small amount of brake fluid to bypass the master cylinder into a local reservoir, lowering the pressure on the cylinder and releasing the brakes. The use of the drum and flywheel meant the valve only opened when the wheel was turning. In testing, a 30% improvement in braking performance was noted, because the pilots immediately applied full brakes instead of slowly increasing pressure in order to find the skid point. An additional benefit was the elimination of burned or burst tires.[3]

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