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What Is Hill Start Assist and What Is It For?

As a driver, you’ve probably faced this situation: you’re driving your car up a slope, when suddenly, whether traffic has stalled or you simply miscalculated the gear and need to shift down, you need to bring your car to a full stop. Another car comes up right behind you. This means that you have to make sure your car doesn’t roll backward–not even an inch. Depending on how fast you react, you were probably able to avert a disaster or cough up some dough for bumper repairs.

Thankfully, there exists a technology allowing you to worry no more when such a situation comes up: Hill Start Assist.

Hill Start Assist Explained

Hill Start Assist (HSA)–also known as Hill Holder or Hill Hold Control–is a driver-assistance system that detects when the car is on an incline and holds the brakes for a few seconds until the clutch finds its biting point and the car begins to move forward. It works even when the handbrake is released. This helps the driver to accelerate smoothly without the danger of the vehicle descending and hitting anything behind it.

History of Hill Start Assist

HSA isn’t a new technology–not even remotely. It was actually introduced in 1936 and was initially equipped in the Studebaker President released that year. The technology became more widely available beginning 2005, when Volkswagen adopted it into its mass produced cars like the Passat, Jetta, and Touareg. The modern version of HSA was first offered in vehicles with automatic or semi-automatic transmission, but today, even manual transmission vehicle have it, thanks to the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) installed in many cars today, which often come bundled with HSA.

Do you need it?

Seasoned drivers have developed their own techniques to overcome road inclines, so HSA isn’t for everybody. Nevertheless, it makes traveling on slopes safer in general, and reduces the risk of a collision or accident, so there’s no denying its usefulness. As the technology has evolved and become cheaper to manufacture, many new cars come fitted with it. Nowadays, almost every car manufacturer has a car equipped with HSA, either as standard or option, so might as well have it if the car you’re buying has it.

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