When a driver turns a steering-wheel, he or she normally expects the vehicle's steering system to communicate an equivalent amount of signal to the road-wheels. This relationship is linear and occurs regardless of the steering-wheel's position within its rotational travel. The linear steering paradigm in passenger vehicles has gone largely unchanged since mass production of passenger vehicles began in 1901. However, as more electronically-controlled steering systems appear in conjunction with development of autonomous steering functions in vehicles, an opportunity to advance the existing steering paradigms arises. The following framework takes a human-factors approach toward examining and evaluating alternative steering systems by using Modeling and Simulation methods to track and score human performance. Present conventional steering systems apply a linear relationship between the steering-wheel and the road wheels of a vehicle. The rotational travel of the steering-wheel is 900° and requires two-and-a-half revolutions to travel from end-stop to opposite end-stop. The experimental steering system modeled and employed in this study applies a dynamic curve response to the steering input within a shorter, 225° rotational travel. Accommodation variances, based on vehicle speed and steering-wheel rotational position and acceleration, moderate the apparent steering input to augment a more-practical, effective steering rate. This novel model follows a paradigm supporting the full range of steering-wheel actuation without necessitating hand repositioning or the removal of the driver's hands from the steering-wheel during steering maneuvers. In order to study human performance disparities between novel and conventional steering models, a custom simulator was constructed and programmed to render representative models in a test scenario. Twenty-seven males and twenty-seven females, ranging from the ages of eighteen to sixty-five were tested and scored using the driving simulator that presented two successive driving test vignettes: One vignette using conventional 900° steering with linear response and the other employing the augmented 225° multivariate, non-linear steering. The results from simulator testing suggest that both males and females perform better with the novel system, supporting the hypothesis that drivers of either gender perform better with a system augmented with 225° multivariate, non-linear steering than with a conventional steering system. Further analysis of the simulated-driving scores indicates performance parity between male and female participants, supporting the hypothesis positing no significant difference in driver performance between male and female drivers using the augmented steering system. Finally, composite data from written questionnaires support the hypothesis that drivers will prefer driving the augmented system over conventional steering. These collective findings support justification for testing and refining novel steering systems using Modeling and Simulation methods. As a product of this particular study, a tested and open-sourced simulation framework now exists such that researchers and automotive designers can develop, as well as evaluate their own steering-oriented products within a valid human-factors construct. The open-source nature of this framework implies a commonality by which otherwisedisparate research and development work can be associated. Extending this framework beyond basic investigation to reach applications requiring morespecialized parameters may even impact drivers having special needs. For example, steeringsystem functional characteristics could be comparatively optimized to accommodate individuals afflicted with upper-body deficits or limited use of either or both arms. Moreover, the combined human-factors and open-source approaches distinguish the products of this research as a common and extensible platform by which purposeful automotive-industry improvements can be realized—contrasted with arbitrary improvements that might be brought about predominantly to showcase technological advancements.


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Graduation Date





Morrow, Patricia Bockelman


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science

Degree Program

Modeling and Simulation









Release Date

November 2019

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)