You are on page 1of 6

A Control Theoretic Model of

Driver Steering Behavior

R. A. Hess and A. Modjtahedzadeh

Following well established feedback control design principles, a control theoretic

model of driver steering behavior is
presented. While accounting for the inherent
manual control limitations of the human, the
compensation dynamics of the driver are
chosen to produce a stable, robust, closedloop driver/vehicle system with a bandwidth
commensurate with the demands of the driving task being analyzed. A technique for
selecting driver model parameters is a natural
by-product of the control theoretic modeling
approach. Experimental verification shows
the a bility of th e m o d el t o p r o d u ce
driver/vehicle responses similar to those obtained in a simulated lane-keeping driving task
on a curving road. A technique for selecting
driver model parameters is a natural byproduct of the control theoretic modeling approach. Experimental verification shows the
ability of the model to produce driver/vehicle
responses similar to those obtained in a simulated lane-keeping driving task on a curving

Control Technology for Automotive

Active control technology, which is now
routinely used in modern high-performance
aircraft, is finding its way into the realm of
automotive engineering [l].
The design and development of systems
for four-wheel steering, active suspensions,
active, indepenrdent braking and "drive-bywire" steering provide the engineer with
considerably more freedom in altering vehicle
handling qualities than existed in the past.
Mathematical models of driver steering behavior can serve as useful tools in analytical
investigations of proposed vehicle control
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the
1989 IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Conference, Cambridge, MA, Nov. 17-19, 1989. A. A.
Hess and A. Modjtahedzudeh are with the Dept. of
Mechanical, Aeronautical and Materials Engineering, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

I Control Systems Magazine

systems provided that they meet two criteria.

First, they should be ab l e to predict
driver/vehicle responses accurately enough to

Most, if not all, of the research described was

researcher rather than predictive tools for the

lane center1 ine,

Fig. 1.Steering task geometry.

allow valid engineering decisions to be made

concerning the acceptability of proposed
vehicle control schemes, and second they
should be relatively easy to use by an engineer
who may not be a manual control specialist,
i.e., they should require a minimum of "art"in
their application.
To be sure, the subject of mathematically
modeling driver steering behavior is not new.
A sampling of research in the area, dating from
1961 canbefoundin [2-12].Itisprobablysafe
to say that none of the models presented in
these references meet both criteria stated
above. This is not intended as a criticism.

practicing engineer. The work described here

places increased emphasis on the latter role,
developing predictive tools for driver steering

Control Theoretic Framework

C o n si d er Fi g . 1 , which shows a
driver/vehicle system in a lane-keeping task
on a curving roadway. Assume that the vehicle
is under "cruise control" and is maintaining
some desired speed uo.The driving task can be
summarized as one of maintaining the lateral
path error yE(t)near zero. This task suggests




vehi cl e








Fig. 2 . A driverlvehicle feedback system.

0272-1708/90/0800-003 $01.00 0 1990 IEEE


k h

1 arge magnitudes f o r
good t r a c k i n g p e r f o n a n c e


approximate -20 dBfdec slope

--90 e


adequate phase


o - .-

/ ' ' F



crossover 'frequency








small magnitudes f o r low

sensitivity t o uncertainty

Frequency (radkec.)
Fig. 3 . Desirable open-loop return ratio characteristics.

bandwidths of this magnitude to be obtained,

it can easily be demonstrated that adequate
stability margins will not be achieved. Simply
adding a second lead term at frequencies
above the crossover frequency would, of
course, solve this problem, however the resulting Go@)would not be a good model for driver
steering behavior, since the effects of higher
frequency neuromuscular system modes have
been neglected. If one hypothesizes that a
two-loop feedback system is created by the
driver, with an inner feedback loop controlling
visually-sensed vehicle lateral velocity yv(t),
and an outer feedback loop controlling visually-sensed vehicle lateral position yv(t), then
the required bandwidth, itself, is unattainable.
Thus, if our model is to meet the first of the
two criteria mentioned in the preceding section, a new tack is required.

Proposed DrivedVehicle Model

Vehicle Model

the feedback system of Fig. 2 which shows the

driver operating on the perceived lateral error
yE(t)and producing a corrective steering wheel
input &. The characteristics of a "goodq
drivedvehicle system can be succinctly
described in control terminology as those
which cause the output yv(t),to equal the input
yR(t)over as broad a frequency range as possible while minimizing sensitivity to disturbances and variations in the characteristics of
the vehicle or the driver.
As is well-known, the closed-loop characteristicsjust mentioned translate into desirable
frequency domain characteristics of the openloop return ratio or loop transmission
Go(jw)Gv(jo) equals yv(jw)/eA(jw)as shown
in Fig. 3 [13]. Perhaps not surprisingly, this
desirable behavior of the open-loop return
ratio around the crossover frequency oc.i.e.,
approximating that of a transfer function
GoGv(s) = OC-/S, has been shown to be exhibited by almost all manually controlled systems. It has led to the formulation of what is
called the "crossover" model of the human
operator [ 141. Because of the inherent limitations of human sensing, processing, and actuation, an "effective" time delay is also included
in the crossover model, and the open-loop
return ratio of a single-loop manual control
system around the crossover frequency can be
accurately described by the transfer function
(wc/s)exp{ -wI.
The preceding discussion lays the
groundwork for presenting a control theoretic
model of driver steering behavior. The term
"control theoretic" is not intended to suggest
that new results in the theory of feedback
control are forthcoming here, but rather to

distinguish this approach from psychological

models of human behavior or models which
emphasize the visual information processing
characteristics of the driver, e.g., [lo].
A simple, linear model for driver steering
behavior corresponding to Fig. 2 might now
fo r mu l at ed
as Go@) eq u al s
[l/Gv(s)][(oJs)exp( - z ~ s ) ]Formostvehicles,
this Go@) would imply low-frequency lead
generation on the part of the driver, i.e., G&)
is approximately equal to (TLs+l)exp( -GS),
with l/TLmuch less than wc. A problem arises
with this approach in modeling aggressive
driving tasks. In such tasks, lateral position
bandwidths on the order of 2 rad/s are suggested by response data, e.g., [6]. While the
f o r m of G&) j u s t g i v en may al l o w

A brief discussion of the vehicle model is

in order before the driver model can be introduced. For purposes of exposition, the
description of the vehicle model will be as
simple as possible.
Referring to Fig. 1, a linear, four-variable
state space model was derived, with state variables v(t), r(t), y ( t ) and yy(t), defining the
component of vehicle velocity in y B , the y
body-axis, yaw rate, heading angle and lateral
deviation, respectively. No roll or suspension
dynamics were considered in the model although their inclusion would pose no difficulties except added vehicle model complexity.
The characteristics of the particular vehicle
being modeled were obtained from a study

Fig. 4 . The driverhehick model.

August 1990

summarized in [9] and represent those of a

full-size car traveling at 50 km/h. For the
purposes of this study, the vehicle dynamics
are summarized by the following linear transfer function:
7.69 ( 52+2 (0.372) (5.96) s+ 5.962)

yv - s(s

4.44) (s

m/s-rad . (1)


The Driver Model

Fig. 4 is a block-diagram representation
of the proposed drivedvehicle system, emphasizing the driver model elements. As the figure
indicates, the driver model has been divided
into high and low-frequency compensation
elements, each of which are described in the
following sections. As will be seen, thismodel
will 1) allow the bandwidth and stability requirements of aggressive steering tasks to be
met, 2) include a neuromuscular system mode,
and 3) exhibit the desirable open-loop return
ratio characteristics of Fig. 3.

B -4Ob





1 1 1 1 1

\ \



I I111111



Frequency (radhc.)




'ig. 5.Open-loop return ratio f o r driverlvehicle system of Fig. 4 .

High Frequency Driver Compensation

We begin by adopting a model which has

been successfully employed in modeling
human pilots in well-defined flight control
tasks: the so-called "structural model" of the
human operator [ 151. This model constitutes
the high-frequency driver compensation,
where high-frequency refers to frequencies
within an approximate one decade range
around the crossover frequency of the overall
driver/vehicle open-loop return ratio. Space
does not permit a detailed discussion of the
genesis of the structural model, and the interested reader is referred to [15].
The block labeled GNMis a simple
second-order representation of the neuromuscular system of the driver's arms. Block Gpl
has, as its input, the output of the neuromuscular system 6swwhich is the driver's steering
input to the vehicle. Block GP2receives its
input from the output of GPI.Both of these
dynamic elements represent feedback of variables derived from the motion of human limbs
and muscle tissue, and are referred to as
"proprioceptive" feedback elements. The
block GLis a time delay representing the inherent human signal processing delays. This
delay is not equivalent to the zEmentioned
previously, in that the latter delay includes the
phase lag effects attributable to the remainder
of the dynamics in the structural model, namely those emanating from the feedback loop
involving GNMand GPI.
Although the high-frequency driver compensation involves an eight parameter model,
experience in modeling the human operator in
IEEE Control Sntems Magazine

Fig. 6. A visual guidance cue for the driving task.

Table I
Nominal Parameter Values for StructuralModel










2.0 5.0
2.0 5.0
10.0 2.5









*Selected to achieve desirable crossover characteristics.

a variety of manual control tasks, e.g., [16],
has shown that four of these parameters can be
considered invariant, with the remaining four
dependent only upon the human operator
compensation (proportional, derivative, or integral) which will cause they& transfer func-

tion in Fig. 4 to follow the dictates of the

crossover model in the high-frequency region
just defined. Table I summarizes these
parameters. For the vehicle dynamics of (l),
high frequency derivative compensation is required tocancel thevehicle pole at s = -4.44.

- 250r

Y ( d

Fig. 7 .Curving roadway from the simulation of [9].

Note that the vehicle pole at s = -5.33 is

essentially cancelled by the complex zero.
This means that, in Table I, k = 2, and T =
V4.44 s, and the remaining model parameters
are listed in the last row of the table.
Note that no feedback loop involving
visually sensed lateral vehicle velocity has
been employed in the model, despite the fact
that we have formed the structural model
based upon yv/&w vehicle dynamics. The
reason for avoiding a driver model with two
feedback loops using visually (as opposed to
proprioceptively) sensed variables has been
pointed out previously. This is an important
step in the modeling procedure. The high-frequency compensation in the driver model
which is based on the yV/hw
transfer function,
simply serves to tailor the high-frequency part
of the open-loop return ratio. Note further that
the feedback variables in the structural model
are internal to the human and are assumed to

involve proprioceptive organs such as muscle

spindles, joint angle receptors, etc. [ 171.

of 1 r ad s has been chosen. The amplitude

peaking evident around 101 1 rad/s is a result
of the "proprioceptive"feedback loops around
the neuromuscular system G N Min the structural model in Fig. 4 . As will be seen, the
maximum bandwidth achievable with the system of Fig. 5 is considerably greater than that
possible with either of the two feedback possibilities discussed earlier.
With the linkage between Ky,UT3, and
a-,we see that only one parameter in the
driver/vehicle model is used to account for
driver adaptation to different steering tasks
with any set of vehicle dynamics. That
parameter is the open-loop return ratio crossover frequency %.
Visual Guidance Cue

Low-Frequency Driver Compensation

An examination of the transfer function

yv/u in Fig. 4 at this point indicates that the
desired open-loop return ratio characteristics
of Fig. 3 can be obtained with the addition of
the block Gc in Fi g . 4, where G c =
Ky[s+( 1/T3)].For modeling purposes, the zero
at - l/T3will be maintained a decade below the
crossover frequency of the open-loop return
ratio yv/eA.This decade separation represents
areasonable choice as it provides the desirable
large, low-frequency magnitude shown in Fig.
3, without adversely affecting the gain and
phase margins. Fig. 5 shows the resulting
amplitude and phase characteristics of the
open-loop return ratio when, for the sake of
comparison with Fig. 3, a crossover frequency

A simple visual guidance cue, first

proposed in [ 1 8 ] ,could be used by the driver
in closing the outer feedback loop of Fig. 4.
By realizing that &t) = U O v R ( t ) and, for typically configured vehicles &(t) = uovv(t) the
variable U in the model of Fig. 4 is equivalent
to a weighted sum of heading and lateral displacement errors between the desired and actual vehicle paths. Thus, in the time domain,
and referring to Fig. 6,

Th us, the variable U is proportional to vu,

defined as the angle between the vehicle
body axis and an "aim point" on the tangent to
the lane centerline, a distance MOT3 = 10udoc
ahead of the vehicle. The simple guidance cue
defined in (2) is valid regardless of the driving
task. Of course, a combination of high speed
and low crossover frequency can lead to an
aim point location far ahead of the vehicle.
This simply means that v , ( t )would be quite
small as compared to vE(t), and the latter
would become the primary visual cue in the
driving task.


5 = d i s t a n c e measured a l o n g roadway

Driving Simulator Data Comparison


6s w
deg 0

- 60






Distance s ( m )


Fig. 8. Steering inputs: ( a ) driver simulation, (b) model.

Driver/vehicle response data from a driving task summarized in [9] can now be used
to evaluate the accuracy of the driver/vehicle
model just described. The task used the
vehicle dynamics summarized here by the
lateral path to steering input transfer function
of ( 1 ) with a constant speed uo= 50 km/h. The
task consisted of lane-keeping on the curving
roadway shown in Fig. 7 . All the driver model

August 1990

parameters associated with the high-frequency compensation have been chosen in the
preceding section independently of the driving task. As just mentioned, 0~ (and consequently, Kyand 1/T3)is the only driver/vehicle
model parameter which will be varied to tune
the model responses to those from the simulation experiment of [9]. This tuning procedure
was accomplished by employing a simulation
of the drivedvehicle system of Fig. 4 (including nonlinear roadway kinematics) and varying 0~ from run to run until the standard
deviations of lateral deviation and heading
errors of the driver/vehicle model were close
to those obtained in the experiments of [9].
The resulting low-frequency compensation,
Gc(s),is given by:

G ~ ( s=) 1.75(~+ 0.325).

0 two-wheel steering

four-wheel s t e e r i n g


The crossover frequency oc for the driver

vehicle system for this Gc(s)is 3.25 rad/s, with
gain and phase margins of 5.4 dB and 24",
respectively. The corresponding closed-loop
bandwidth defined as the lowest frequency for






was found to be 5.35 rad/s. The error standard deviation comparisons are:




0.22 m





ig. 9. Driverfvehicle crossover frequency as a function of velocityfor direrent steering systems.

0.26 m

The statistics from the experiment were

the result of eight simulation runs by each of
six, well-trained test subjects. A comparison
of low-frequency steering wheel inputs, i.e.,
those which correspond to the roadway curvature, indicated very close agreement between
model and experiment. However, the experimental hW contained a low-amplitude
high-frequency component which can be attributed to driver "remnant" [ 141.The effect of
such remnant injection is not considered significant in the evaluation of overall vehicle
handling qualities, and hence, remnant was
not included in the modeling effort here. Fig.
8 shows the steering input time histories for
one of the drivers from the experiment and that
from the model, with the former exhibiting the
high-frequency remnant component.
It is interesting to note that the crossover
frequency, gain and phase margins of the
"tuned" driver/vehicle model are also representative of values which have been measured
in single-loop manual tracking tasks in which
the dynamics of the plant require high-frequency lead compensation on the part of the

/ Contra/ Systems Magazine


human similar to that required here [ 191. This

result suggests that, in the absence of driver
simulation data with which to choose wc, the
wealth of theoretical and experimental information in the manual control literature may
provide adequate guidance.

Exercising the Model

As an example of the utility of the model
of driver steering behavior, we can analyze the
same vehicle used in the previous section, but
now including a four-wheel steering system.
One "control law" which has been proposed
for such a steering system, e.g., [20], automatically determines the steering angle of the rear
wheels so that the component of the vehicle
velocity in the ye body axis remains zero (no
vehicle "sideslip") when the driver turns the
front wheels in normal maneuvering. Fig. 9
compares predicted driver/vehicle crossover
frequencies wc at a number of velocities for
the vehicle with conventional two-wheel
steering and the same vehicle with the fourwheel steering system just described. In both
cases, the control theoretic model for driver
steering behavior was formulated with gain

and phase margins fory,/e, of at least 25O, and

6 dB, respectively.The superiority of the fourwheel system is evident in the results. As can
be seen from the figure, crossover frequency,
and hence, maneuverability,for the two-wheel
system decreases with increasing velocity,
while that for the four-wheel system, does not.
Of course, care must be exercised in extrapolating the results of such an analysis to
maneuvers of a severity that would invalidate
the simplifying assumptions of the linear
vehicle model used here.

The control theoretic model of driver
steering behavior has been developed consisting of low- and high-frequency compensation
elements, with the latter obtained from application of a structural model of the human.
A single parameter, the crossover frequency of
the open-loop return ratio, was used to tune
model response statistics to those from a
simulation experiment involving lane keeping
on a curving roadway. The remaining
parameters in the driver model were selected
on the basis of well-established feedback con-

trol design principles dependent only upon the

vehicle dynamics. A simple visual guidance
cue can account for the manner in which the
driver closes the outer feedback loop in steering tasks. Research is currently underway in
employing the model to study the effects of
different vehicle steering systems on handling

[9] L. D. Reid, E. N. Solowka, and A. M. Billing,

"A systematic study of driver steering behavior,
Ergonomics, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 447-462, 1981.
[ 101 U. Kramer and G. Rohr, "A model of driver
behavior," Ergonomics, Vol. 25, No. 10, pp. 891907, 1982.
[ll] J. Godthelp, "Precognitivecontrol: Open and
closed-loop steering in a lane change maneuver,"
Ergonomics, Vol. 28, No. 10, pp. 1419-1438,1985.

[l] M. Iguchi, "Applicationof active control technology to motor vehicle control," Int. J. Vehicle
Des., Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 287-294, 1988.
121 J. G. Wohl, "Man-machinesteering dynamics,"
Human Factors, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 222-228, 1961.

[12] T. Legouis, A. Laneville, P. Bourassa, and G.

Payre, "Characterization of dynamic vehicle
stability using two models of the human pilot behavior," Vehicle Syst. Dynamics, Vol. 15, No. l, pp.
1-18, 1986.
[ 131Maciejowski, Multivariable Feedback Design.
New York: Addison Wesley, 1989.

[3] W. W. Wienville, G. A. Gagne, and J. A.

Knight, "An experimental study of human operator
models and closed-loop analysis methods for highspeed automobile driving," IEEE Trans. Human
Factors Elecrron., Vol. HFE-8, pp. 187-201, 1967.

[ 141D. T. McRuer and E. Krendel, "Mathematical

models of human pilot behavior," AGARDograph
No. 188. Jan. 1974.


D. H. Weir and D. T. McRuer, "Models for

steering control of motor vehicles," in Proc. Fourth
Ann. NASA-Univ. Conf. on Manual Control, Mar.
1968,pp. 135-169.

[I51 R. A. Hess, "A model-based theory for analyzing human control behavior," in Advances in ManMachine Systems Research, W. B. Rouse, Ed., Vol.
2. London: JAIPress, 1985, pp. 129-175.

[5] E. R. F. W. Crossman and H. Szostak, Manmachine models for car steering," in Proc. Fourth
Ann. NASA-llniv. Con$ on Manual Control, Mar.
1968,pp. 171-195.

[16] R. A. Hess, "Theory for aircraft handling

qualities based upon a structural pilot model," J.
Guidance, Control Dynamics, Vol. 12, No. 6, pp.
792-797, 1989.

[6] D. T. McRuer, R. W. Allen. D. Weir, and R. H.

Klein, "New results in driver steering control
models," Human Factors, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 381397, 1977.

[17] D. T. McRuer, "Human dynamics in manmachine systems,'' Automatica, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp.

[7] G. A. Bekey, G. 0. Burnham, and J. Seo, "Control theoretic models of human drivers in carfollowing," Human Factors, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 393-413,

[18] R. W. Allen, "Stability analysis of automobile

driver steeringcontrol,"in Proc. Seventeenth NASAUniv. Conf. Manual Control, pp. 597-609, Oct.

[8] E. Donges, "A two-level model of driver steering behavior." Human Factors, Vol. 20, No. 6, pp.

[19] D. E. Johnston and D. T. McRuer, "Investigation of limb-sidestick dynamic interaction with roll
control,'' J. Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, Vol.

IO, NO.2, pp. 178-186, 1987

[20] E. C. Yeh and R. H. Wu, "Open-loop design

for decoupling control of a four-wheel steering
vehicle,"Int. J. of VehicleDes., Vol. 10,No. 5,1989.
A . Hess
received the B.S., M.S.,
and Ph.D. degrees in
aerospace engineering
from the University of
Cincinnati, in 1965,
1967, and 1970, respectively. In 1982he joined
the faculty of the Department of Mechanical, Aeronautical, and Materials
Engineering at the University of California, Davis,
where is currently a Professor in the Division of
AeronauticalScience and Engineering. His current
research interests lie in the areas of automatic and
manual control and in madmachine systems. He is
an Associate Fellow of the AIAA, a member of
IEEE, SigmaXi, and Tau Beta Pi and is an Associate
Editor of the Journal of Aircraf, and the IEEE
Transactions on Systems,Man, and Cybernetics. He
is a Vice-presidentof the IEEE Systems, Man, and
Cybernetics Society and chairman of the Society's
Manual Control Technical Committee. He is a
member of the AIAA Technical Committee on Atmospheric Flight Mechanics.


Ali Modjtahedzadeh

was born in 1960in Iran.

He received the B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the
Universityof California,
Irvine, in 1983, the M.S.
degree in mechanicalengineering from San Jose
State University in 1985, and is presently working
towards the Ph.D. degree in the Department of
Mechanical,Aeronautical,and Materials Engineering at the University of California, Davis. His research interests are focused in system dynamics and
control, with emphasis upon mathematical modeling and control design. His current research area is
manual control theory, applied to vehicular control.

1990 SMC Conference

The 1990 IEEE International Conference
on Systems, Man, and cybernetics will be
held November 4-7, 1990 at the Sheraton
Universal Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. Conveniently located on the Universal Studios lot
atop the Hollywood Hills, the Sheraton
provides easy access to cultural and entertainment centers of Los Angeles.
The conference theme, Models and Media
in Human-Machine Systems, h as been
selected to reflect the growing importance of
these aspects in decision support, training and
information systems. Presentations dealing
with theoretical perspectives, innovative
design and simulation methods, and emerging

modeling paradigms are encouraged. Plenary

and technical sessions will emphasize this
year's theme.
Papers will be presented relevant to the
following areas: enterprise modeling and
simulation; concurrent engineering; manufacturing systems; human-machine systems;
telerobotics and autonomous systems; behavioral decision making; artificial neural systems, knowledge systems; computer aided
software/systems engineering; visual programming and graphical interfaces; networked simulators and distributed simulation;
collaborative design; decision support systems; automation in manned systems; aviation

safetylautomation; information and decision

systems; risk management and human engineering; workload analysis and modeling;
image interpretation and computer vision;
team decision making and training; intelligent
tutoring and training systems; human computer interaction in complex systems;
automated performance measurement.
For further information, contact:
Amos Freedy, Conference Chairman, or
Azad M. Madni, Program Chair.
Perceptronics, Inc.
21135 Erwin Street, Box 4198
Woodland Hills, CA 91365-4198
(818) 884-3485.

August 1990