How Drivers Lose Control of the Car

Authors Abstract
After a severe lane change, a wind gust, or another disturbance, the driver might be unable to recover the intended motion. Even though this fact is known by any driver, the scientific investigation and testing on this phenomenon is just at its very beginning, as a literature review, focusing on SAE Mobilus® database, reveals. We have used different mathematical models of car and driver for the basic description of car motion after a disturbance. Theoretical topics such as nonlinear dynamics, bifurcations, and global stability analysis had to be tackled. Since accurate mathematical models of drivers are still unavailable, a couple of driving simulators have been used to assess human driving action. Classic unstable motions such as Hopf bifurcations were found. Such bifurcations seem almost disregarded by automotive engineers, but they are very well-known by mathematicians. Other classic unstable motions that have been found are “unstable limit cycles.” The driving simulator results have been reproduced by experimental tests on track. We have assessed that the driver’s steering action can make the car motion unstable if a proper disturbance has acted. The delay of the driver’s steering action is the primary cause for the generation of limit cycles. Future automated vehicles should be conceived by focusing on the addressed phenomenon.
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Mastinu, G., Previati, G., Della Rossa, F., Gobbi, M. et al., "How Drivers Lose Control of the Car," Vehicle Dynamics, Stability, and NVH 8(1):99-121, 2024,
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Mar 06
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Journal Article