Fleet News

Special feature: End of the road for your foot?

A BREAKTHROUGH development in automotive electronics is all set to let business motorists put their feet up in future when they go for a drive.

Buttons will do the job of the accelerator and brake pedals in high-end saloon models due to be launched next year.

In what is regarded as the ultimate version of electronic ESP gadgetry designed to prevent skidding, boffins at component supplier Bosch have perfected drive-by- button, a system that allows a car with automatic transmission to be controlled simply by pressing a switch mounted on the steering wheel.

Likely to become a must-have feature for motorists who prefer to let their fingers do the work while they stretch their legs in comfort, the touch-activation facility comes as part of Premium, a special electronic stability programme intended for the luxury car sector.

BMW and another German premium carmaker have already signed up for the system and are expected to offer it as an option toward the end of next year.

Applications manager Hubertus Wienken said: ‘Pricing has yet to be fixed, but we expect Premium to cost the customer around £800. We are hoping it will be a popular fitment.’

Designed to complement the traditional pedals rather than replace them, the system enables the driver to accelerate from rest right through to maximum speed by simply pressing the upper half of a small toggle button alongside other switches on the steering wheel.

Wienken said: ‘Pressing the other side of the switch brings the brakes into action and will either cut the speed or slow the car to standstill. We don’t intend to replace the accelerator and brake pedals, but our trials are proving that drive by button is very convenient to use and is quite relaxing in heavy traffic. The system is foolproof, will last the life the car and requires no maintenance.’

As Bosch took the unusual step of celebrating a decade of manufacturing electronic stability control systems by opening the doors of its top-secret winter test centre in Sweden to the media for the first time, Wienken also revealed that the company is poised to launch another innovation in vehicle dynamics management.

This summer, several car makers will introduce ‘ESP plus’, a novel system incorporating a ‘traffic jam assist’ feature which is claimed will relieve drivers of much of the effort of repeated braking during journeys through cities and heavily congested urban areas.

Likely to cost substantially less than Premium, the system lacks ‘stop and go’ capability but allows the driver to ignore the brake pedal and concentrate only on the accelerator.

Wienken added: ‘We have worked for two years to make sure ESP plus is simplicity itself to use, because the equipment starts applying the brakes as soon as the driver eases his foot off the accelerator. We believe this technology will be of great interest in the fleet sector, where a good deal of driving takes place in heavily congested areas.’

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