The paper deals with the analysis of a manoeuvre occurring frequently before crashes. Due to an external disturbance the straight ahead running of a vehicle is degradated into an oscillating motion. The driver is required to countersteer to recover the straight ahead motion. The bifurcation analysis of a simple model describing a vehicle+driver running straight ahead is performed. The mechanical model of the car has two degrees of freedom and the related equations of motion contain the non linear tyre characteristics. The driver is described by a non linear model defined by three parameters, namely the gain (steering wheel angle per lateral deviation from desired path), the prevision distance, the reaction time delay.

Unreferenced bifurcations are discovered for the understeering vehicle. A supercritical Hopf bifurcation may occur as forward speed is increased. Also tangent (fold) bifurcations occur as the speed (or disturbance) are further increased.

The vehicle+driver model is validated by means of a number of tests performed in a track. The validation relies on the identification of driver’s parameters. The track is equipped with a plank sliding laterally when the vehicle rear axle passes on it. Such a lateral excitation applies a disturbance to the vehicle which initiates a spin to be counteracted by the driver. An analysis is performed on driver’s parameters identification. Such parameter identification seems a possible way to assess single driver’s ability to perform recovery manoeuvres.

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