A Unifying Theory of Driver Perception and Steering Control on Straight and Winding Roads

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Novel driver support systems potentially enhance road safety by cooperating with the human driver. To optimize the design of emerging steering support systems, a profound understanding of driver steering behavior is required. This article proposes a new theory of driver steering, which unifies visual perception and control models. The theory is derived directly from measured steering data, without any a priori assumptions on driver inputs or control dynamics. Results of a human-in-the-loop simulator experiment are presented, in which drivers tracked the centerline of straight and winding roads. Multiloop frequency response function (FRF) estimates reveal how drivers use visual preview, lateral position feedback, and heading feedback for control. Classical control theory is used to model all three FRF estimates. The model has physically interpretable parameters, which indicate that drivers minimize the bearing angle to an 'aim point' (located 0.25-0.75 s ahead) through simple compensatory control, both on straight and winding roads. The resulting unifying perception and control theory provides a new tool for rationalizing driver steering behavior, and for optimizing modern steering support systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8890716
Pages (from-to)165-175
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Human-Machine Systems
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2019


  • Control theory
  • Driver steering
  • multiloop control
  • preview information
  • Roads
  • system identification
  • Task analysis
  • Vehicle dynamics
  • Vehicles
  • visual perception
  • Visualization
  • Windings


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