ABS – An Innovation in Braking

ABS abbreviated as Anti-lock Braking System is a most common feature in four wheelers. Yesterday while browsing I just came across a video of the newly launched TVS APACHE RTR 180 ABS bike which shows the working of the ABS braking system in the bike under hard conditions. You can watch the video over here

. This video only made me to write this article. The working of ABS in the bike just amazed me. Now I will give the details about the ABS system.

ABS – Anti lock Braking System

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.

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).


The anti-lock brake controller is also known as the CAB (Controller Anti-lock Brake). A typical ABS includes a central electronic control unit (ECU), four wheel speed sensors, and at least two hydraulic valves within the brake hydraulics. The ECU constantly monitors the rotational speed of each wheel; if it detects a wheel rotating significantly slower than the others, a condition indicative of impending wheel lock, it actuates the valves to reduce hydraulic pressure to the brake at the affected wheel, thus reducing the braking force on that wheel; the wheel then turns faster. Conversely, if the ECU detects a wheel turning significantly faster than the others, brake hydraulic pressure to the wheel is increased so the braking force is reapplied, slowing down the wheel. This process is repeated continuously and can be detected by the driver via brake pedal pulsation. Some anti-lock system can apply or release braking pressure 16 times per second.

The ECU is programmed to disregard differences in wheel rotative speed below a critical threshold, because when the car is turning, the two wheels towards the center of the curve turn slower than the outer two. For this same reason, a differential is used in virtually all roadgoing vehicles. If a fault develops in any part of the ABS, a warning light will usually be illuminated on the vehicle instrument panel, and the ABS will be disabled until the fault is rectified. The modern ABS applies individual brake pressure to all four wheels through a control system of hub-mounted sensors and a dedicated micro-controller. ABS is offered or comes standard on most road vehicles produced today and is the foundation for ESC systems, which are rapidly increasing in popularity due to the vast reduction in price of vehicle electronics over the years.

Modern electronic stability control (ESC or ESP) systems are an evolution of the ABS concept. Here, a minimum of two additional sensors are added to help the system work: these are a steering wheel angle sensor, and a gyroscopic sensor. The theory of operation is simple: when the gyroscopic sensor detects that the direction taken by the car does not coincide with what the steering wheel sensor reports, the ESC software will brake the necessary individual wheel(s) (up to three with the most sophisticated systems), so that the vehicle goes the way the driver intends. The steering wheel sensor also helps in the operation of Cornering Brake Control (CBC), since this will tell the ABS that wheels on the inside of the curve should brake more than wheels on the outside, and by how much.

The ABS equipment may also be used to implement a traction control system(TCS) on acceleration of the vehicle. If, when accelerating, the tire loses traction, the ABS controller can detect the situation and take suitable action so that traction is regained. More sophisticated versions of this can also control throttle levels and brakes simultaneously.


There are four main components to an ABS: speed sensors, valves, a pump, and a controller. ­

Speed sensors
The anti-lock braking system needs some way of knowing when a wheel is about to lock up. The speed sensors, which are located at each wheel, or in some cases in the differential, provide this information.
There is a valve in the brake line of each brake controlled by the ABS. On some systems, the valve has three positions:
  • In position one, the valve is open; pressure from the master cylinder is passed right through to the brake.
  • In position two, the valve blocks the line, isolating that brake from the master cylinder. This prevents the pressure from rising further should the driver push the brake pedal harder.
  • In position three, the valve releases some of the pressure from the brake.
Since the valve is able to release pressure from the brakes, there has to be some way to put that pressure back. That is what the pump does; when a valve reduces the pressure in a line, the pump is there to get the pressure back up.
The controller is an ECU type unit in the car which receives information from each individual wheel speed sensor, in turn if a wheel loses traction the signal is sent to the controller, the controller will then limit the brakeforce (EBD) and activate the ABS modulator which actuates the braking valves on and off.


There are many different variations and control algorithms for use in an ABS. One of the simpler systems works as follows:

  1. The controller monitors the speed sensors at all times. It is looking for decelerations in the wheel that are out of the ordinary. Right before a wheel locks up, it will experience a rapid deceleration. If left unchecked, the wheel would stop much more quickly than any car could. It might take a car five seconds to stop from 60 mph (96.6 km/h) under ideal conditions, but a wheel that locks up could stop spinning in less than a second.
  2. The ABS controller knows that such a rapid deceleration is impossible, so it reduces the pressure to that brake until it sees an acceleration, then it increases the pressure until it sees the deceleration again. It can do this very quickly, before the tire can actually significantly change speed. The result is that the tire slows down at the same rate as the car, with the brakes keeping the tires very near the point at which they will start to lock up. This gives the system maximum braking power.
  3. When the ABS system is in operation the driver will feel a pulsing in the brake pedal; this comes from the rapid opening and closing of the valves. This pulsing also tells the driver that the ABS has been triggered. Some ABS systems can cycle up to 16 times per second.


  • Reduced the risk of multiple vehicle crashes by 18 percent,
  • Reduced the risk of run-off-road crashes by 35 percent.

Source : Wikipedia

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