Continental Celebrates The 50th Anniversary Of The Anti-Lock Braking System

German auto component maker, Continental, has announced the completion of 50 years, since the world premiere of the first Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) at the 1969 Frankfurt Auto Show. It was the American technology firm Teves, later changed to IIT Teves, which had showcased the MK 1, the first anti-lock braking system at the motor show. Interestingly, the idea of a technology that can prevent the wheels from locking under hard barking was present since the 1920s, but the solution to the problem only emerged with the development of powerful electronics. So, in 1965, engineers at IIT Teves started working on an ABS for passenger cars, and later became a part of Continental, before it entered series production.

While the technology was revealed in 1969, it took another 15 years, until 1984 for it to enter series production, mainly due to oil crises and subsequent weakening of the economy, which affected the automotive market back then. However, during this period, the company did install the ABS technology in 36 test vehicles which were used by the Swedish Police. However, the time also allowed Teves to work on perfecting the system, and in 1984, it launched the MK II, the world’s first microprocessor-controlled ABS for passenger cars on the road. It was the first system to combine the brake function, brake booster, hydraulic control and anti-lock brake system into one compact unit.

The MK I and MK II were early ABS units, while the MK C1 is the latest system from Continental; MIB is ABS for motorcycles

Helmut Fennel, who at the time held a key function in promoting the use of microprocessors for ABS, explains the decisive advantage of the technology as follows: “Due to its programmability, our system could be quickly and optimally validated both for braking manoeuvres on rough roads, that is, with a high coefficient of friction, and for those on slippery roads, such as on ice in winter. It was also considerably more flexible than other solutions and could, therefore, be quickly adapted to different vehicle concepts, such as models with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The microprocessor solution gave us a head start of several years.”

Back then ABS technology was considered to be a premium feature and was only offered as optional equipment for an additional cost. In fact, in North America, the Lincoln Continental, while the European market saw the addition of ABS in the Ford Scorpio, however, the latter got the safety system as a standard feature. Soon, Continental started updating its ABS units with a traction control system (TCS), and soon with every generation upgrade, new features started coming in as part of the package like – electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and electronic stability control (ESC). Today an ABS technology is equipped with up to 50 additional functions, such as the automatic release of the parking brake when starting, hill start assist, or as an important component of adaptive cruise control systems. The first production-ready ABS from Continental was the size of a 5-litre gas can and weighed 11.5 kilograms, now it’ weighs as low as 2 kgs or less.

Continental says, since the introduction of the first systems at the end of the 1970s, the total number of people killed in road traffic in Germany has fallen by 80 per cent. The company also says that according to GIDAS accident research, 25 per cent of all motorcycle accidents in the two-wheel sector can also be prevented by standard ABS. Thus, ABS makes a significant contribution to the long-term goal of Vision Zero, a future without road traffic crashes.

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