In this paper, a hierarchical optimal four-wheel steering (4WS) controller is proposed to enhance the energy saving for vehicle lateral motions. By the integration of the four-wheel vehicle dynamics, wheel dynamics, and tire model, the vehicle propulsion power consumption is derived with respect to the front and rear wheel steering angles as control inputs. In the high level of the proposed controller, an autonomous path following control is developed to provide virtual control inputs including the lateral forces and yaw moment via the dynamic sliding mode control design. In the low level, the high-level virtual control inputs are distributed to the front and rear steering angles, in which the energy optimization problem is solved. The objective function of the optimization problem aims to minimize the vehicle propulsion power consumption and virtual control tracking error. Furthermore, the requirements of the vehicle stability and the path following accuracy are considered in the constraints. Verified by CarSim® and MATLAB/Simulink® co-simulation, the proposed 4WS hierarchical energy optimization controller can successfully reduce the power loss for vehicle lateral motions.

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