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Anti-lock brakes

Chances are, if you bought a new car or even a new motorcycle within the last few years, you didn’t even get an option on ABS. It came as standard, and in your car was legally mandated. Anti-lock brakes work by measuring the rotational acceleration of the wheels, or comparing their rotational velocities. If one wheel is rotating very much slower than the others, or suddenly decelerates, it’s probably about to lock so the ABS backs off the pressure on the brake for that wheel.

ABS turns everyone into a pretty capable brake operator, in most circumstances. This is great, because many people are not pretty capable at operating brakes, even when they think they are, and ABS makes them better at it. Of course, some people are very capable at it, but ABS levels them too, making them merely pretty capable.

But even a highly capable brake operator can panic, or make mistakes. When that happens, ABS means that the worst effect of their mistake is that they are merely pretty capable.

In some circumstances, having ABS is strictly worse than not having it. An ABS car will take longer to stop on a gravel surface or on snow than a non-ABS car. Car with ABS tend to hit each other much less often than those without, but tend to run off the road more often than those without. But for most vehicles, the ABS is always-on, even in situations where it will get in your way. Bring up that it is getting in your way, and someone will tell you how much safer it is than not having it. Which is true, in the other situations.

Of course the great thing about anti-lock brakes is that the user experience is the same as what most sub-pretty-capable drivers had before. No need to learn a different paradigm or plan your route differently. When you want to stop, press the thing that makes the car stop very hard.

Something, something, programming languages.

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