Step inside any new car and you’ll likely find that there isn’t a traditional handbrake. In its place is a switch identical to the door window controls, albeit slightly larger. The electronic parking brake, a feature once regarded as a luxury, had made its way into new cars. Other than its main feature, it helps when starting off and incline, working in tandem with the hill-start assist, another common feature in today’s vehicles.
As ‘practical’ as it is, it’s hard to imagine what quality it improves. If anything, it takes away the simplicity of a traditional one, which was also considered as an emergency brake. While most cars won’t see the parking brake used in an emergency, the fact that it’s instantaneous and only requires the driver to pull the handbrake makes it safer in distressing situations and when parking. This also applies for foot-operated parking brakes, one that saw more use in cars with a lack of center consoles. Contrary to the advanced variant, where it takes a few seconds to activate. In life-threatening situations where every second matters, having to wait for the parking brake to kick in is not ideal.
Easing the start off an incline is its most notable feature, but a normal handbrake could do the same, although slightly more difficult. Repairs and errors are more susceptible with the electronic parking brake, seeing as how regular ones are simply connected to the car itself, rather than relying on the ECU. While convenience is its main purpose, safety and practicality should be placed above all, especially for a vehicle’s basic functions.
(Image sourced from promotional pictures of Honda’s HR-V)