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All Lexus Models Feature Brake Assist Safety System for 2001; Availability of Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) Expanded

  • Torrance, CA  (September 1, 2000)

Lexus has for 2001 expanded availability of Brake Assist, the dramatic safety advance it introduced last year. Brake Assist is standard on all 2001 Lexus models except the IS 300, which uses electronic brake distribution to optimize performance of its anti-lock brake system (ABS).

Brake Assist can help reduce stopping distance during emergency maneuvers or "panic" braking. The system is designed to determine if the driver is attempting emergency braking and, if the driver has not stepped hard enough on the brake pedal to engage the ABS, it supplements the applied braking power.

Brake Assist joins Vehicle Skid Control (VSC), which Lexus introduced on some models for 1999, in addition to the standard anti-lock brake system (ABS). VSC can help control vehicle skids caused by loss of traction at the front or rear wheels. For 2001, VSC is newly standard on the RX 300 sport-utility vehicle. The system is also standard on the GS 300, GS 430, and LS 430 sedans and the LX 470 sport-utility vehicle. It is an option for the ES 300 sedan.

Most Drivers Don't Brake Hard Enough

While Lexus passenger vehicles provide outstanding braking performance, research has shown that many drivers - especially those with little experience - might not apply sufficient brake force when needed, such as during emergencies. Brake Assist is designed to measure the speed and force with which the driver applies the brake pedal to determine whether the driver is attempting to brake rapidly. If the system determines that is the case, it immediately applies additional pressure to take full advantage of the standard Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS).

The driver will therefore benefit from the vehicle's full braking power, while ABS will prevent brake lockup to help preserve steering control. Brake Assist intervenes only when the driver's action indicates an emergency-stopping situation and immediately reduces brake pressure when the driver lets up on the brake pedal.

How Brake Assist Works

When the driver depresses the brake pedal, the Skid Control ECU measures the depressing speed and force from the master cylinder sensor signals. Based on this data and the vehicle speed (calculated from the ABS wheel speed sensors), the ECU determines whether the vehicle is in a state of emergency braking.

If the ECU does determine a state of emergency braking, it causes the solenoid valves in the brake actuators and pump motor to operate. Hydraulic pressure generated by the pump goes to the individual brakes, generating higher brake pressure than called for by the brake pedal alone. The ECU controls the solenoid valves to provide the proper amount of assist force based on the driver's pressure on the brake pedal.

Vehicle Skid Control (VSC)

Many skids that cause a loss of vehicle control are caused by understeer, where the vehicle "plows" ahead even with the steering wheel turned sharply, or oversteer, where the vehicle turns more than the steering wheel position requires, causing it to swerve at the rear.

VSC helps control lateral skids on slippery or dry road surfaces by detecting and correcting understeer and oversteer conditions. The VSC system electronically monitors vehicle speed and direction, and compares the vehicle's direction of travel with the driver's steering, acceleration, and braking inputs. VSC can use throttle intervention and/or apply individual wheel braking to help control any discrepancy between where the driver is steering and where the vehicle is heading. The system integrates traction control to limit spinning of the drive wheels on slippery surfaces.

VSC uses some components shared with the anti-lock braking system (ABS) and an electronically controlled engine throttle, as well as a dedicated computer and sensors. These include:

  • Yaw rate sensor to detect changes in the car's rotation in a left or right direction
  • G-sensor to determine if the car is decelerating or accelerating
  • Steering angle sensor to evaluate the direction and rate of change in steering wheel movement
A high-speed computer constantly compares the driver's intentions - as indicated by steering wheel, throttle and braking activity - with the car's actual motions measured by the various sensors. If they do not correlate, the VSC computer selectively applies individual wheel brakes and/or momentarily reduces engine power as necessary to help the car regain lateral control, within the limits of the tires' traction and the laws of physics.

For example, if the car were tending to continue straight rather than responding to the driver's right turn of the steering wheel, VSC would typically reduce engine power to shift the vehicle's weight to the front wheels to help provide more traction for steering. At the same time, VSC would apply the right front brake momentarily to help the car turn to the right more quickly. Once proper vehicle attitude is restored, VSC returns to a standby state.

VSC complements the standard ABS system, helping to maintain vehicle control in a broader range of situations. However, VSC differs from ABS in that it is intended to help a driver maintain steering control even when the brakes are not applied.

A warning tone and instrument panel light indicates that the system is active. In many cases, VSC reacts well before the driver is aware of a loss of lateral traction. A VSC shutoff button deactivates VSC and electronic traction control for use in certain situations such as rocking of the vehicle to free it from very deep snow. At all other times, VSC should remain on.

As with other safety technologies - such as ABS - VSC is not a substitute for safe driving practices and cannot defy the laws of physics. Nor can the system provide more traction than exists in a given condition. VSC can help provide a measure of control in unexpected situations faced by even the most careful drivers.

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Vehicle(s) shown may feature optional equipment.

MSRP does not include delivery, processing and handling fee of $910. Excludes taxes, title, license and optional equipment. Dealer price will vary.

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This article was written by a third party, and does not necessarily reflect the view(s) or opinions of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., which also is not responsible for any errors that may be contained therein. This article is reprinted by permission of the publisher. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

For complete vehicle information, capabilities and limitations, see your local Lexus dealer.

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