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ABS - Antilock Braking System
Originally developed for aircraft braking systems in the first half of the twentieth century, the Antilock Braking System (ABS) is essentially used to improve stability during braking and in some cases it can even shorten braking distances altogether. Appearing in various mechanical forms before, the first modern electronic four-wheel ABS system was co-developed by Mercedes-Benz and Bosch.
In cars without ABS, during hard braking the wheels lock, thus making impossible for the car to be steered and the vehicle most likely skids into the obstacle the driver is trying to avoid. The ABS prevents wheel lock-up during braking maneuvers by using sensors which can determine if any wheel is slowing down more than the others and computer-controlled valves which can limit the pressure delivered to each brake cylinder on demand. The whole system is controlled via a master ECU (Electronic Control Unit).
Since the ABS constantly pumps the brakes during a braking maneuver the driver can concentrate on steering the car while applying constant pressure on the brake pedal, without fear of losing control of the car's direction. Also, while braking on uneven surfaces (left tires on gravel and right ones on tarmac, for example) the ABS can keep the car's stability under control.