A Generic Plug-in Jack-knife Accident Prevention System for Vehicle-Trailer Path Tracking Control

A plug-in that predicts semi-truck jack-knifing and prevents it by saturating or overtaking steering control.

The Need

There is an increased consumer demand for autonomous vehicles which make driving safer and easier. Maneuvering and parking a semi-truck with a trailor attached is both dangerous and challenging. Autonomous semi-trucks can avoid one of the most prolific driving problems: jack-knifing, when a reversing semi-truck loses complete control.

The Technology

The plug-in developed by Dr. Lisa Fiorentini and her team at the Ohio State University predicts and prevents jack-knifing. The program can be used in trucks with path tracking controllers and is stored in the onboard processor while it communicates with the truck's back sensor. The program is installed without the need to revise the truck's cooperation system. When the truck reaches an unmaneuverable range, the controller overtakes steering control to prevent jack-knifing and returns the truck to a safe position. Once the truck is clear from danger, the path-tracking controller or user regains control of steering.

Commercial Applications

  • Installation in trucks with path tracking
  • Addition to path tracking software


  • No revision to the truck's cooperating system
  • Increased motor vehicle safety
  • Calculations are done quickly without needing online access
  • Autodetects trailer parameters
  • Robust: works with different steering rate constraints and when trailer parameters are inaccurate

Research Interests

Dr. Fiorentini's research interest lies in the field of control and system theory: nonlinear and adaptive control; robust control; modeling; tracking and regulation problems; system analysis and optimization. UGVs control: optimal task assignment; mission-level path planning; SLAM; high-level and low-level control. Embedded systems and sensor fusion. Autonomy in vehicles. Control applications in robotics, aerospace and automotive engineering.

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