Project logo Vorreiter  

Biologically Inspired Steering Gestures for Partially and Highly Automated Driving


Key Info

Basic Information

01.01.2017 to 31.12.2019
Research Area:
Haptic Interaction and Gesture Control



Frank Flemisch

Head of Research Department of balanced Human Systems Integration


+49 241 80 99435




In the Vorreiter project, steering gesture concepts for partially and highly automated vehicles were developed, implemented, and evaluated as a "Design for All", i.e., for people of all ages, with and without disabilities. The inspiration came from the natural example of riders and horses, who continually communicate through discrete signals (gestures) on the reins. Transferred to drivers and vehicle automation, the steering gestures developed in the Vorreiter project enable automatic maneuvers to be triggered and controlled via intuitive swipe or push/twist gestures on the steering wheel or drivestick. The interdisciplinary consortium of industry partners and research institutions transferred these scientific findings into tangible demonstrators and commercial applications.


Partially and highly automated driving is becoming increasingly important with the steadily growing performance of computer systems and their increasing integration into vehicle electronics. At the same time, the costs of sensors that enable the monitoring of a vehicle's surroundings are falling. Nevertheless, the development of intuitive and, above all, safe concepts has not always been at the forefront in the recent past, as accidents with Tesla's Autopilot and/or Uber's High Automation show. These challenges were addressed in the Vorreiter project by not only developing an intuitive input system for partially and highly automated driving in the simulator, but also by checking the intuitive input via steering gestures for possible weaknesses and errors within the interdisciplinary consortium while it was still in the development process.


The objective of the Vorreiter project was to provide the collective intelligence of the technical system (assistance and automation) in such a way that it makes possible actions in the form of maneuvers quickly comprehensible in the respective situation and can be implemented quickly and safely using intuitive steering gestures on the steering wheel or drivestick. The interaction between riders and horses served as inspiration here, in which the horse initiates possible movement patterns through discrete "steering" gestures on the reins or stirrup. Transferred to vehicles, the respective possible maneuvers could be evaluated by the automation or a co-system and shown in the form of movement trajectories on a display or on the windshield. The maneuvers could be activated by lightly pressing the actuator and could also be controlled, influenced and interrupted at any time by the same actuator. Examples of maneuvers are, for example, a lane change on the highway or in the city, turning, stopping and starting in front of a crosswalk or a parking maneuver Such control via steering gestures can already provide a gain in comfort, and also a gain in safety for fast, safety-critical maneuvers. For younger drivers, the suggestion of a trajectory through automation can compensate for the still lacking experience, for older drivers a possibly slower reaction time. In addition to faster reaction times, drivers with disabilities can benefit from the fact that the respective maneuver only needs to be initiated by the driver, while the automation system takes over the effort-intensive execution of the vehicle's maneuver.



  Model information flow, description see image caption Copyright: © IAW Model of the flow of information between the person, the co-system and the environment via a haptic actuator such as a touch-sensitive steering wheel when a steering gesture is executed  

The Vorreiter project was divided into five work packages. As consortium leader, the academic and research department for balanced human systems integration at the IAW was involved in all work packages. In the first work package, the focus was on gathering the requirements of the various target groups addressed in the Vorreiter project. The requirements were mainly derived from extensive interviews conducted in the respective target groups. The second work package aimed at structuring the design- and use-space of the components to be used for the maneuver-based control of a partially and highly automated vehicle. This enabled the participatory design of the human-machine or human-vehicle interface in the further course of the project. The results of this work package were developed on the one hand via literature studies and on the other hand in the context of workshops with potential users. Since the approach was participatory and iterative, the initial design was continuously developed and revised during the course of the project and implemented in increasing detail within the third work package. The fourth work package was largely concerned with the exchange and consideration of information in order to ensure that the concept had a high level of user acceptance as well as a high level of legal conformity. The fifth work package included the experimental evaluation of the implemented concept through simulator studies. For this purpose, a vehicle automation system developed by IAW was adapted to the requirements of the project and the developed maneuver gestures were evaluated.



  A test person drives in the static driving simulator Copyright: © IAW Person sits in the driving simulator and performs stroking gestures on a touch-sensitive steering rim  

The results of the simulator studies showed that the implemented concept was evaluated as very positive, especially for the SAE levels of automation 3 and 4. This indicated that the need for such a concept to be applied in real vehicles can be confirmed overall. Drivers with disabilities also perceived the interaction via maneuver gestures with a highly automated vehicle as beneficial and relieving. Overall, the consortium managed to develop a legally secured steering gesture concept. It is not yet ready for mass production, but with a little "fine-tuning", it has a good chance of making complex automation easy to learn and operate both for the mass market and - with individual adaptations - for people with disabilities.


The project was funded by the BMBF – Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (German Ministry of Education and Research).

Project Partners

Fraunhofer IAO
IAT Stuttgart
HWR Berlin
Valeo Schalter und Sensoren GmbH