Lee Alexander, Research Fellow, Mechanical Engineering
Traffic congestion is growing in urban areas of every size. A relatively unexplored but very promising solution to the problem of congestion is the adoption of narrow vehicles for commuter travel. Like motorcycles, narrow vehicles can promote significantly improved highway utilization by the use of half-width lanes. However, in order for the general public to adopt this form of personal transportation, narrow vehicles should perceptibly provide the same ease of use and the same level of safety as passenger sedans. The research team in this project developed a new concept vehicle that is relatively tall compared to its track width. (This provides a travel height that is comparable to that of other vehicles on the highway.) To help the driver balance this tall, narrow vehicle, an electronic tilt control system was incorporated to ensure tilt stability. The tilt control system, based on the use of steer-by-wire technology, balances the vehicle and improves ease of use, especially on curves where the vehicle must lean into the curve to ensure tilt stability.
The final project report includes significant detail on the design of the prototype narrow vehicle constructed by the research team, including dynamic modeling for narrow tilting vehicles. The report also includes experimental results on the performance of the control system on the prototype narrow vehicle. Comparisons are made between the simulated system and the experimental vehicle. This illustrates the limitations encountered in the simulations but also shows similarities that validate the model. Also, experimental results show that the vehicle is stabilized very well by the controller within the limitations of our prototype hardware.