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Rollover Stability Index Including

Effects of Suspension Design
Aleksander Hac
Delphi Automotive Systems

Reprinted From: Vehicle Dynamics and Simulation 2002


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Rollover Stability Index Including Effects of

Suspension Design
Aleksander Hac
Delphi Automotive Systems
Copyright 2002 Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc.

In this paper a simple yet insightful model to predict
vehicle propensity to rollover is proposed, which
includes the effects of suspension and tire compliance.
The model uses only a few parameters, usually known
at the design stage. The lateral accelerations at the
rollover threshold predicted by the model are compared
to the results of simulations, in which vehicles with the
same static stability factor, but different suspension
characteristics and payloads are subjected to rollinducing handling maneuvers. The results of simulations
correlate well with the predictions based on the
proposed model. Design recommendations for passive
suspensions, which would increase rollover stability are

In recent years rollover has became an important safety
issue for a large class of vehicles. Even though rollovers
constitute a small percentage of all accidents, they have
unproportionally large contribution to severe and fatal
injuries. For example, rollover is the primary cause of
fatalities in accidents involving sport utility vehicles
(SUVs). There is an urgent need to develop both
analytical and experimental tools to predict rollover
propensity of vehicles and to improve their design from
the viewpoint of rollover resistance. Real-world rollovers
are complex events, involving a variety of factors, which
may have broad statistical distributions, and some of
these factors may be beyond control of vehicle
designers. Such factors include driver steering patterns,
type of road surface, type of shoulder, road and shoulder
inclination angles, existence of drop off in transition from
road to shoulder, coefficient of friction, presence or
absence of obstacles on the vehicle path, etc. In
addition, during rollover vehicle experiences a loss of
stability, a condition in which small changes in vehicle
parameters, inputs or environment can significantly
affect vehicle behavior. For these reasons, it is nearly
impossible to device a simple test or a method that
would reflect a majority of real-world rollover scenarios
and reliably determine rollover propensity. There is a

need to develop models based on sound physical

principles that would help the vehicle designer in
predicting and reducing rollover risk. One commonly
used indicator of rollover propensity is the lateral
acceleration at the rollover threshold. It provides a
measure of rollover resistance not only in the untripped,
maneuver induced rollovers, but also in some types of
tripped rollovers, such as tripping on soft soil, since
certain minimal lateral force is necessary do initiate
There exists a variety of models, which predict vehicle
rollover propensity and in particular lateral acceleration
at the rollover threshold. They range from a simplistic
static stability factor ground (Garrot et al., 1999) at one
side of the spectrum to complex computer models (Allen
et al. , 1999) on the other. None of these extremes
provides significant insights into the effects of vehicle
suspension design on rollover propensity. Computer
models require a large number of parameters, which
may not be readily available, and pose problems in
interpreting the results. In particular, because of
complexities of the model, it is not easy to separate the
primary influences from the higher order effects, unless
other insights are available. Computer models do not
provide clear guidance regarding changes that could
improve the design if the results are not satisfactory.
Static stability factor is a ratio of half-track width to the
height of vehicle center of gravity above ground (Garrot
et al., 1999). This measure of rollover propensity reflects
only the most fundamental relationship. It is obtained
under the assumption that a vehicle is a rigid body and
ignores all higher order effects, in particular the effects
of suspension and tire compliance. In reality vehicle
suspension allows for significant movements of wheels
with respect to the body, resulting in changes in halftrack width and position of vehicle center of gravity
during large lateral acceleration. For vehicles with low
static stability factors, the cumulative effect of secondary
factors may be sufficient to reduce the lateral
acceleration threshold to the value achievable during
emergency handling maneuvers.

There exists a number of analytical formulas for rollover

threshold, which include higher order effects to varying
degrees. Gillespie (1992) provides an expression for the
rollover threshold, which includes the effect of lateral
movement of vehicle center of gravity due to body roll.
Dixon (1996) gives a more refined formula, which in
addition to the effect of body roll, reflects the influences
of tire lateral distortion and the gyroscopic moments due
to wheel rotation. Bernard et al. (1989) provide
relationships for rollover thresholds of varying complexity
with the static stability factor being the simplest. The
more complex model includes the effects of lateral
movement of vehicle center of gravity, lateral tire
distortion and the effect of overshoot in roll angle during
dynamic maneuvers.
In this paper the major secondary effects resulting from
suspension and tire compliance affecting rollover
propensity are discussed. They include the effects of the
lateral movement of vehicle center of gravity due to body
roll during cornering, the effects of suspension
kinematics and of lateral compliance of tires, the effects
of jacking forces in suspension (which may elevate the
body center of gravity), the effects of damping, payload
and gyroscopic forces. A quasi-dynamic stability factor,
which reflects these secondary influences is proposed. It
can be viewed as an extension of the models proposed
earlier. The rollover stability threshold predicted by the
proposed factor is compared to the results of
simulations, in which a full vehicle model is subjected to
roll-inducing handling maneuvers. The vehicle has the
same static stability factor, but different suspension
characteristics and payloads. The results of simulations
correlate well with the predictions based on the simple
suspensions, which would increase the rollover stability,
are discussed. An analytical formula for the optimal
height of roll centers from the viewpoint of rollover
resistance is derived. The focus is on independent
suspensions, which become more common in modern
SUVs and afford the designer more freedom in selecting
suspension kinematics than the dependent suspensions.
The results of this paper are limited to vehicles with
passive suspensions and without stability enhancement
systems, or other active control systems, which may
have a profound effect on vehicle propensity to rollover.
The effects of active systems are discussed in a
separate paper.

Static stability factor is obtained by considering the
balance of forces acting on a rigid vehicle in steady-state
cornering. This is illustrated in Figure 1, where
deflections of tires and suspension are neglected.
During cornering the lateral tire forces on the ground
level (not shown) counterbalance the lateral inertial force
acting at vehicle center of gravity, resulting in a roll

moment. This moment is counterbalanced by the

moments of vertical forces. Taking moments about the
center of contact patches for the outside tires results:
TA = Mgtw/2 Mayh0 - Fzitw


where M is vehicle mass, g gravity acceleration, tw

vehicle track width (assumed the same front and rear),
ay is vehicle lateral acceleration, h0 the height of vehicle
center of gravity above ground, and Fzi the total normal
load on the inside tires.

Figure 1. Rigid Vehicle Model

At the limit cornering condition (rollover threshold) the

normal load, Fzi, reaches zero. Hence at the rollover
threshold the lateral acceleration is
aylim = gtw/(2h0) = gSSF


where SSF = tw/(2h0) is the static stability factor.

Neglecting the compliances of suspensions and tires
leads to overestimation of rollover threshold. During
cornering vehicle body rolls about the roll axis, resulting
in the lateral shift of vehicle center of gravity towards
outside of turn. At the same time lateral forces of the
outside tires cause lateral deformation of the tires and
camber (i.e. rotation about the longitudinal axis) of the
wheels. All these factors contribute to the reduction of
the moment arm of the gravity force, which acts to
stabilize the vehicle. At the same time, vertical
movement of the wheel with respect to the body is
usually accompanied by the lateral movement, which
can change the half-track width. This lateral movement
is determined primarily by suspension kinematics. In
addition, the lateral forces are transmitted between the
body and the wheels by rigid suspension arms, which in
general are not parallel to the ground. Therefore these
link forces have vertical components, which in general
do not cancel out and may elevate vehicle center of
gravity. Most of these effects are illustrated in Figure 2.
The final result is the reduction of the effective half-track
width and usually increase in height of vehicle center of

gravity, both of which reduce the rollover threshold. In

addition, during cornering vehicle wheels rotate about
the lateral axis (axis of their rotation) and concurrently
about the vertical axis (the axis of vehicle turn). This
results in gyroscopic moments, which contribute to the
moment equation. Finally, in dynamic maneuvers, the
roll angle of vehicle body may exceed (overshoot) the
steady-state value. The amount of overshoot depends
on the type of maneuver, but for a given maneuver it is
related to the roll damping of suspension as well as
suspension stiffness and the body moment of inertia
about the roll axis. In what follows, each effect is
discussed separately and simplified equations are
provided which describe their impact on rollover
threshold as function of known vehicle parameters.

Figure 2. Vehicle Model with Deformable Suspension

and Tires
Under the influence of lateral inertial forces in steady
state cornering, vehicle body rolls about the roll axis by
an angle , which can approximately be determined as
= T / = Mshrollay /


where T is the roll moment acting on vehicle body, Ms is

vehicle sprung mass, hroll is the height of vehicle body
center of gravity above the roll axis and is the total roll
stiffness of vehicle suspension and tires. The term Mshroll
/ may be determined experimentally as a roll rate, that
is the body roll angle per unit lateral acceleration. It is
noted that the roll stiffness includes the tire stiffness,
since the body roll angle is measured with respect to the
road, and tire compliance (in vertical direction)
contributes to the roll angle. For SUVs their contribution
may exceed 1 degree of roll angle at maximum lateral
The body roll angle results in a lateral shift of vehicle
center of gravity, which may be interpreted as having an
effect of reducing the effective half-track width, or more
precisely the moment arm of gravity force. Alternatively,
the gravity force Mg can be decomposed into two
components as shown in Figure 2 with the lateral

component, Mgsin, contributing to the moment

equation as a destabilizing moment. This method was
selected in this paper. In any case, the body roll reduces
the stabilizing moment.
It should be noted that in the simplified analysis the
centers of gravity of vehicle and that of the body are
assumed to be collocated. This is a reasonable
simplification since the sprung mass is large as
compared to the unsprung mass, especially for vehicles
with independent suspensions. In more accurate
analysis body roll should be separated from axis roll.
Due to lateral compliance of tires and suspension, as
well as changes in wheel lateral location due to
suspension kinematics and changes in camber angle,
the distance in lateral direction between the centerline of
vehicle and the tire contact patches is changed, usually
reduced, during cornering. In this paper this distance is
defined as a half-track width.
The approximate analysis of the change in half-track
width under dynamic conditions presented here is
conducted using average values for front and rear
suspensions and tire parameters. For most vehicles this
simplification can be used without introducing
unacceptable errors. When geometry and compliance of
front and rear suspensions are significantly different, the
analysis presented here can be conducted separately
for front and rear axle, and then results can be
Assuming a linear tire model, the lateral displacements
of the tire contact patches with respect to the body
resulting from lateral distortion of tires is proportional to
the lateral force, which in turn is approximately equal to
the product of lateral acceleration and vehicle mass.
Thus the reduction in half-track width due to tire
compliance is
tw1 = May/kyt


where kyt is the total lateral stiffness of both outside tires.

Figure 3. Change in Track Width Resulting from

Suspension Kinematics

Additional change of half-track width occurs primarily

because of suspension kinematics and secondarily due
to lateral compliance of suspension elements. The first
effect is illustrated in Figure 3. During suspension
deflection, the wheel rotates with respect to the body
about the instantaneous center of rotation (point C)
located on the line connecting the tire contact patch with
the roll center (point R). This results in wheel
displacement in lateral direction and a change of the
wheel camber angle with respect to the body. A
cumulative effect of both can be analyzed by tracking
the path of the contact point A between the tire and the
road during suspension deflection. In a first
approximation, this path is perpendicular to the line AC.
Thus the increase in the half-track width resulting from
suspension compression of z is
tw2 = ztan = z2hrollc/tw


Thus the increase in half-track width due to suspension

kinematics is proportional to lateral acceleration.
Additional change caused by the lateral compliance of
suspension elements can also be factored in, since it is
proportional to the lateral force and therefore lateral
acceleration. It will generally act to reduce the half-track
width, so it would decrease the value of tw2. The total
reduction in half track width resulting from tire lateral
compliance and suspension kinematics is:
tw = tw1- tw2


and the moment vector is along axis x perpendicular to

both y and z. The symbol I denotes the moment of
inertia of the body about the axis of rotation, y, and is a
vector product.
During a cornering maneuver vehicle wheels are
spinning with the angular velocity
y = v/rd


where v is vehicle speed and rd the tire radius. The

wheels also rotate (with the entire vehicle) with angular
z = v/R



Here is the inclination angle of line AC with respect to a

horizontal line and hrollc is the height of roll center above
ground. If the roll center is located below ground level,
the distance hrollc is negative and the half-track width is
reduced during suspension compression. During
cornering, the compression of outside suspension is
approximately a linear function of roll angle (z = tw/2),
which in turn is proportional to lateral acceleration
(equation 3). This yields
tw2 = Mshrollhrollcay/

Tx = Iyz


where tw1 and tw2 are given by equations (5) and (6),
respectively. The negative sign in front of the second
term appears because tw2 is an increase in half-track
Any rigid body rotating about one axis (usually an axis of
symmetry) tends to resist rotation about another axis
perpendicular to the axis of rotation. If a body rotates
about its own axis of rotation, y, with an angular velocity
y, then the moment necessary to rotate this body about
another axis, z, with velocity z is (Hibbeler, 1989)

where R is the radius of curvature of the vehicle path.

Thus the total gyroscopic moment about the x axis,
which is approximately parallel to the axis of vehicle roll,
Tx = 4Iwv2/(rdR)


The symbol Iw denotes the moment of inertia of each

wheel about the axis of rotation. Since Iw = mww2, where
mw is the wheel mass and w denotes the wheel radius of
gyration, and in the steady state cornering ay = v2/R,
equation (11) can be written as
Tx = 4mww2ay/rd


Thus the gyroscopic moment is proportional to lateral

During cornering maneuvers on smooth roads vehicle
body is usually subjected to vertical forces, often
referred to as jacking forces, which tend to lift the
vehicle center of gravity above the static location. In
steady-state cornering there are primarily two sources of
jacking forces: nonlinearities in suspension stiffness
characteristics and vertical components of forces
transmitted by suspension links. Suspension stiffness
characteristics are usually progressive, that is stiffness
increases with suspension deflection in order to maintain
good ride properties with a full load. During cornering
maneuvers, progressive characteristic of suspension
permits smaller deflection in compression of the outside
suspension than deflection in extension of the inside
suspension. As a result, height of vehicle center of
gravity increases. This effect is highly dependent on the
particular stiffness characteristic, so it is difficult to
capture in a general approach. It is neglected in the
present analysis.

The second jacking effect is a result of forces in

suspension links. Lateral forces generated during
cornering maneuvers are transmitted between the body
and the wheels through relatively rigid suspension links.
In general these members are not parallel to the ground;
therefore the reaction forces in these elements have
vertical components, which usually do not cancel out,
resulting in a vertical net force, which pushes the body

threshold is approximately equal to 0.8gSSF (e.g. it is

20% below the threshold computed from the static
stability factor):

It is known (Gillespie, 1993; Reimpell and Stoll, 1996)

that forces transmitted between the vehicle body and a
wheel through lateral arms are dynamically equivalent to
a single force, which reacts along the line from the tire
contact patch to the roll center of suspension. The roll
center is by definition the point in the transverse vertical
plane, at which lateral forces applied to the sprung mass
do not produce suspension roll. This is illustrated in
Figure 4 for a double A arm suspension.

h = 0.8(hrollc/h0)(Msg/kst)

ay = 0.8gtw/(2h0)


This simplification is justified because it has an effect

only on higher order terms in subsequent analysis.
Equations (15) and (16) yield

The last term, Msg/kst, is a static deflection of

Taking moments about the center of contact patches of
the outside wheel for the compliant vehicle model shown
in Figure 2, one obtains at the rollover threshold
TA = M(h0+h)ay - Mgcos(tw/2 tw)
+ Mgsinh0cos + 4mww2ay/rd = 0


The last term on the left-hand side represents the

gyroscopic moment according to equation (12). Using a
small roll angle assumption, substituting tw from
equations (4) through (7) and ignoring higher order
terms, yields the following expression for the lateral
acceleration at the rollover threshold:
ay = ---------------------------------------------------------------- =
[1 + h/h0 + Msghroll(1-hrollc/h0)/ + Mg/(kyth0)
+ 4mww2/(Mh0rd)]
Figure 4. Roll Center and Jacking Force
The resultant force of two reactions in the links, F, is
inclined under an angle to the horizontal plane, such
tan = 2hrollc/tw


where hrollc is the height of the roll center above ground

and tw is the track width. In the limit steady state
cornering maneuver, the total lateral force in the links Fy
= Msay. Thus the vertical component of the link force, Fz,
Fz = Fy tan = 2Mshrollcay/tw


The jacking force results in the vertical displacement of

the body center of gravity equal to
h = Fz/kst = 2Mshrollcay/(twkst)


The symbol kst denotes the total stiffness of the

suspension in vertical direction. In order to simplify
subsequent equations, it can be assumed that for an
average SUV the lateral acceleration at the rollover

= ------------------------------------------------------------------[1+ h/h0 + Msghroll(1-hrollc/ h0)/ + Mg/(kyth0)
+ 4mww2/(Mh0rd)]
The incremental change in the height of vehicle center of
gravity, h, is given by equation (17). It is seen that the
lateral acceleration at the rollover threshold is lower than
that computed from the static stability factor. The terms
contributing to the reduction in lateral acceleration
threshold along with the typical range of values for an
SUV are listed below.
h/h0 is the effect of the increase in the height of center
of gravity resulting from jacking forces; it may contribute
up to 5% to the reduction in the lateral acceleration
threshold. It is small for suspensions with roll centers
close to the ground and nearly linear stiffness
characteristics. It tends to increase as the height of roll
center increases, according to equation (17).
Msghroll/ is the effect of lateral displacement of vehicle
center of gravity due to body roll and may contribute 5 to
12% (SUVs tend to roll more than passenger cars
because of high center of gravity and large suspension

travel necessary for off road use). This effect depends

on roll rate of vehicle, Mshroll/. It decreases with
increasing roll stiffness of suspension and with
increasing height of roll centers, which reduces the
distance hroll.
Msghrollhrollc/(h0) is the effect of increase in half-track
width as the result of suspension kinematics. It depends
primarily on the height of the roll center above ground,
hrollc. It is the only factor that increases vehicle stability if
roll center is above ground. It contributes up to 5%
increase in lateral acceleration threshold and may
partially offset the effects of tire lateral compliance.
Mg/(kyh0) is the effect of reduction in half-track width due
to lateral compliance of tires; it contributes 3 to 8%
(again this value tends to be larger for SUVs because of
high profile, compliant tires). It decreases with the
increasing lateral stiffness of tires.
4mww2/(Mh0rd) is the effect of gyroscopic forces, which
contributes only 1 to 1.5%.
The effect of gyroscopic forces is very small and can be
neglected. The largest contributing factors are the lateral
displacement of vehicle center of gravity and the lateral
compliance of tires, followed by the effects of
suspension kinematics and change in height of vehicle
center of gravity. With the exception of tire lateral
compliance, each one of these factors can be
significantly influenced by suspension design. All the
secondary factors combined can reduce the lateral
acceleration at the rollover threshold by as much as 2025% for a typical SUV.

Figure 5. Vehicle Body Roll Model

In the above analysis steady-state cornering was
considered, in which the steady-state value of roll angle
was assumed. Since a vehicle is a dynamic system, it
usually exhibits an overshoot in roll response to
suddenly applied lateral acceleration. That is, the
maximum value of the roll angle during transient
exceeds the steady state value. The simplest model,
which captures this phenomenon is the second order roll

model shown in Figure 5. It is described by the following

Isd2/dt2 + c d/dt + = T


where Is is the moment of inertia of vehicle body with

respect to the roll axis, c is the total roll damping of front
and rear suspensions and is the total roll stiffness of
front and rear suspensions, including springs and roll
bars. T is the moment of external loads with respect to
the roll axis; in roll motion exited by lateral acceleration
T = -Msayhroll. If the lateral acceleration input is a unit
step, then T = T01(t) and the steady state roll angle is ss
= T0/. The maximum roll angle under dynamic
conditions is
max = ss(1 + os)


where os is the degree of overshoot above the steadystate value. For the model described by equation (20)
the degree of overshoot in response to a step function
can be determined analytically as
os = exp[-/(1-2)1/2]


where is the non-dimensional roll damping ratio, that is

the ratio of the actual roll damping, c, to the critical
damping ccr = 2(Is)1/2. Thus the damping ratio can be
expressed in terms of vehicle parameters as
= c / [2(Is)1/2]


The degree of overshoot, os, increases as the damping

ratio decreases, that is when the roll damping decreases
relatively to the roll stiffness and the moment of inertia.
Thus increasing the vehicle payload, which increases
the moment of inertia, without increasing damping,
results in reduced damping ratio and increased
The degree of overshoot depends on a particular type of
maneuver. Nearly ideal unit step in lateral acceleration
can be achieved when vehicle is sliding from low friction
surface onto the high-friction one, but it is impossible to
achieve with a step steer, or any steering input on
uniform surface, because lateral acceleration does not
build up instantaneously. Thus the actual overshoot in a
step steer maneuver will usually be substantially less
than the one identified by equation (22), especially when
the roll mode is heavily underdamped. It is therefore
more realistic to consider a step function, in which the
lateral acceleration increases linearly within a finite
period time, as in a ramp function. This is discussed in
more detail in the simulation section.
The moment equation (18) can now be modified to
include the effect of roll angle overshoot in transient
maneuvers. This yields the following equation for lateral
acceleration at the rollover threshold:

where a, b and c are the following constants:

ay = -------------------------------------------------------------------[1+ h/h0 + Msghroll(1-hrollc/ h0)(1+os)/ + Mg/(kyth0)
+ 4mww2/(Mh0rd)]
Equation (24) provides a simple model to determine
rollover threshold using only a few parameters. It permits
one to approximately determine the effects of various
design parameters on rollover propensity. For example,
it is seen that vehicle payload will usually increase
vehicle tendency to rollover because of increased mass
and moment of inertia which tend to increase the steadystate, and especially the dynamic, roll angle, as well as
contribute to reduction of half-track width due to tire
compliance. It may also increase the height of vehicle
center of gravity. As expected, increasing roll stiffness
will improve rollover resistance due to reduction of body
roll angle (and associated lateral displacement of the
center of gravity), but it should be accompanied by an
increase in roll damping. Otherwise the damping ratio
and the overshoot will increase, which may reduce the
benefit of higher roll stiffness in dynamic maneuvers.


Equations (19) and (24) indicate how various vehicle
and suspension design parameters can affect the lateral
acceleration at the rollover threshold, and thereby
vehicle resistance to rollover. While the influences of
suspension roll stiffness or damping are obvious, the
effect of height of roll center is not so transparent.
Increasing the roll center height has both positive and
negative influences on vehicle rollover stability. On one
hand, high roll centers tend to increase the jacking
forces and hence increase the height of vehicle center of
mass during cornering. On the other hand, they reduce
the roll angle of vehicle and the associated lateral
displacement of vehicle center of mass, and contribute
to the incremental increase in half-track width due to
suspension kinematics, tw2. It is often the case that
when a design variable exerts influences acting in
opposite directions, there exists an optimal value for this
variable. The location of roll center is no exception to
this general rule.
Let us neglect the effect of dynamic overshoot and
consider the lateral acceleration threshold given by
equation (19). Since the numerator is a constant, the
lateral acceleration can be maximized by minimizing the
denominator with respect to the roll center height.
Bearing in mind that hroll = h0-hrollc and substituting the
value of h from equation (17), denominator of equation
(19) can be expressed as the following quadratic
function of roll center height, hrollc:
f(hrollc) = ahrollc2 bhrollc + c


a = Msg/(h0) ,

b = 2Msg/ - 0.8 Msg/(ksth02)

c = 1 + Msg h0/ + Mg/(k yth0) + 4m wrw2/(Mh0rd)


Function f(hrollc) reaches minimum when the variable hrollc

= b/2a. In terms of vehicle parameters, this yields the
following optimal value:
hrollcopt = 2h0 0.8/(ksth0)


The optimal height of roll center from the point of view of

rollover resistance depends on the nominal height of
vehicle center of gravity and the ratio of suspension roll
stiffness, , to the total vertical stiffness of suspension,
kst. In practice, the value obtained from equation (27)
would be subject to limitations resulting from other
design constraints, such as allowable changes in
camber angle (limited for example by tire wear) and
limitation of variations in track width. Large variations of
track width with suspension travel, especially when
occuring on the front axle, affect straight line stability
during driving on rough roads (Reimpell and Stoll, 1996).
For the vehicle parameters used in this study (a midsize
SUV) the height of center of gravity, h0 = 0.652 m, the
total vertical stiffness of suspension kst = 74,000 N/m
and the total roll stiffness, = 66,500 Nm/rad.
Substituting these values into equation (27) yields the
optimal value of 0.201 m, which is slightly higher than
typically used. However, the optimal value is quite
sensitive to the ratio /kst. For example, increasing the
roll stiffness by 10% by employing stiffer roll bars, would
reduce this value to 0.087 m. In most vehicles the roll
center of the front suspension is lower than that of the

In order to verify the accuracy of the proposed model,
vehicle simulations were conducted using a full-car 16degree of freedom vehicle model, which was validated
against vehicle test data. The model permits simulation
of vehicle dynamics under large roll angles, significantly
exceeding the angle corresponding to two-wheel lift off
condition. The vehicle used in simulation is a midsize
sport utility vehicle with all independent suspensions and
a marginal static stability factor of only 1.09 in unladen
state. In order to make the vehicle easier to roll over
during severe handling maneuvers, the lateral
acceleration capability of the vehicle was slightly
increased by assuming more aggressive than standard
In an attempt to induce the rollover by aggressive
steering maneuvers, the steering patterns illustrated in
Figure 6 were used. They represent a J-turn maneuver
and a fishhook maneuver. In each case the steering rate

at the steering wheel is reduced to about 1000 deg/s,

which corresponds to the maximum rates that can be
generated by human drivers. All maneuvers were
performed with the entry speed of 25 m/s (about 56
mph), but with increasing amplitudes A of steering angle
up to the point when either the maximum steering angle
of 540 degrees was reached, or the vehicle rolled over.

Figure 8. Vehicle Lateral Acceleration and Roll Angle

Responses in J-turn and Fishhook Maneuvers

Figure 6. Steering Patterns Used in Simulations

The first series of simulations was conducted to evaluate
the degree of overshoot in handling maneuvers with
rapid changes in steering angle. In Figure 7 the degree
of overshoot computed from equation (22) is plotted as a
function of damping ratio, for the roll mode. The
nominal value of is 0.261. The degrees of overshoot
obtained from full car simulations of both maneuvers are
also shown in Figure 7 for several damping levels
ranging from half to double the nominal value. The roll
angle and lateral acceleration responses are illustrated
in Figure 8 for both steering patterns and the nominal
level of damping. The amplitudes of the steering angle
were 54 and 27 degrees for the J-turn and fishhook
steering patterns, respectively.

Since the lateral acceleration does not build up

immediately after a step in steering angle, the simple
model over-predicts the overshoot when damping is low.
For very firm damping, however, the model
underestimates the degree of overshoot. This occurs
because in full vehicle simulations the lateral
acceleration rises above its steady-state value after
rapid changes in steering angle, which in turn causes
the roll angle to overshoot. The overshoot in lateral
acceleration is caused primarily by dynamic increase of
tire normal forces due to transient body roll and heave,
which increases lateral forces and consequently lateral
A better match between the degree of overshoot
obtained from simulations and from the analytical
formula can be obtained if a more realistic ramp function
in lateral acceleration instead of a step function is used.
For example, the dotted curve in figure (7) illustrates the
overshoot calculated when the lateral acceleration rises
linearly from zero to the final value in 0.5 seconds. This
line is much closer to the simulation test data. Within the
range of damping usually encountered in SUVs, the
degree of overshoot can be approximated by the
following linear function
os = 0.35 0.4


The next series of simulations is designed to study the

effects of changes in payload and selected suspension
design parameters on the rollover propensity. For this
purpose vehicles with the following parameter variations
were considered:

Figure 7. Degree of Overshoot as Function of Damping


1) Vehicle 1 is a baseline vehicle with all nominal

parameters and without payload.

2) Vehicle 2 has the same parameters as the baseline,

but it carries an additional payload of 500 kg. The
payload, in addition to changing inertial properties,
causes a slight increase in the height of vehicle
center of mass, a shift of the center to the rear, and
deflection of suspension (which shifts its operating
point towards higher stiffness and facilitates
bottoming of suspension during cornering).
3) Vehicle 3 is the same as the baseline, but with front
and rear roll bar stiffness double the nominal values
and the damping coefficients increased by 25%.
This corresponds to the increase of total roll stiffness
by 41%. The damping was increased in order to
maintain approximately the same damping ratio in
the roll mode despite increase in roll stiffness.
4) Vehicle 4 is the base vehicle with both roll center
heights increased to the optimal value calculated
from equation (27).
Responses of each vehicle to both steering patterns with
increasing amplitudes were simulated from an initial
speed of 25 m/s (56 mph). The nominal vehicle did not
roll over in the J-turn maneuver regardless of the
amplitude of the steering wheel angle, but with full
payload it rolled over for the steering angle of 70
degrees and at a rather low lateral acceleration of 6.78
m/s2. Traces of lateral acceleration and roll angle for
both vehicles in a J-turn with 90 degrees steering input
are compared in Figure 9.

the rear, which promotes tendency to oversteer.

Oversteer is known to be a contributing factor in
rollovers (Marine et al., 1999) since peak lateral forces
on tires of both axles are developed at relatively large
side slip angles. In the case of fishhook maneuver both
the nominal vehicle 1 and the vehicle 2 with payload
rolled over, but the vehicle with payload did at the lower
level of lateral acceleration and at a lower steering
Simulations performed for vehicle 3 (with increased roll
stiffness and roll damping) and vehicle 4 (with modified
suspension geometry) indicate that neither of them can
be rolled over in J-turn or fishhook maneuvers
regardless of the amplitude of steering angle. Thus
relatively minor changes in suspension design can
improve rollover resistance of vehicle with marginal
static stability factor. These improvements of resistance
to maneuver induced rollover for vehicle 3 and 4 were
predicted by the simplified model. The results of
simulations in the case of fishhook maneuver for
vehicles 3 and 4 as compared to the baseline vehicle 1
are shown in Figures 10 and 11, respectively.

Figure 10. Responses of Vehicle 1 and 3 in a Fishhook

Maneuver with the Steering Angle Amplitude of 90

Figure 9. Responses of Vehicle 1 and 2 in a J-turn

Maneuver with the Steering Angle of 90 Degrees
Simulation performed for vehicle 2 was terminated when
the body roll angle reached 1 radian (57.3 degrees). The
vehicle with payload rolls over much easier because of
several factors: larger roll angle in handling maneuvers
due to increased inertia (which increases both the
steady state value and the dynamic overshoot),
tendency of suspension to bottom in heavy cornering,
which increases jacking forces, larger reduction in half
track width due to lateral compliance of tires and
suspension under increased lateral forces, slightly
higher center of gravity, and shift of center of mass to

The amplitudes of the steering angle are 90 degrees in

both cases. It is seen that both vehicles 3 and 4 remain
stable, while the baseline vehicle rolls over. It should be
noted, however, that the individual changes in
suspension parameters as defined by vehicle 3 and 4
are not sufficient to prevent the vehicle with full payload
from rolling over. Nevertheless, the steering angle
amplitude required to rollover these vehicles is larger
than for the base vehicle.


Figure 11. Responses of Vehicle 1 and 4 in a Fishhook

Maneuver with the Steering Angle Amplitude of 90
In Table 1 the results of simulations in terms of the
accelerations at the rollover threshold are compared to
the values obtained from the equations (19) and (24).
The effect of gyroscopic moments was neglected in the
analytical models. Equation (24) includes the effect of
dynamic overshoot, while equation (19) does not. In the
third column the dynamic overshoot computed from the
theoretical formula (22) was used, while in the fourth
column the quasi-empirical equation (28) was utilized.
The value of lateral acceleration derived from simulation
is the maximum value of lateral acceleration in any of
the considered maneuvers, in which vehicle did not roll
over. Since in some cases there are peaks of extremely
short time duration, not sufficient to cause rollover, the
lateral acceleration was low-pass filtered. There is a
good agreement between the results of simulations and
those obtained from the analytical models, with the value
of lateral acceleration at the rollover threshold derived
from simulations being usually and very close to the
analytical result obtained from equation (24) with the
overshoot modeled by equation (28).


(Eq. 19)

24, 22)

24, 28)


The vehicle with payload (vehicle 2) is an exception

the model tends to overestimate the lateral acceleration
at the rollover threshold. It is most likely due to the fact
that the simple model does not take suspension
nonlinearities into account, in particular the effect of
bottoming of suspension, which increases the height of
vehicle center of gravity and lateral tire forces under
dynamic conditions.

In this paper the effects of some design parameters of

passive independent suspensions on rollover propensity
of vehicles with high center of gravity, such as SUVs,
were examined. A model derived from simple physical
principles was proposed to evaluate vehicle propensity
to rollover. The model includes the effects of lateral
movement of vehicle center of gravity during body roll,
the effects of suspension jacking forces, the effects of
changes in track width due to suspension kinematics,
the effects of tire lateral compliance, of gyroscopic
forces, and the effects of dynamic overshoot in the roll
angle. A simplified formula was derived for the lateral
acceleration at the rollover threshold, which includes the
effects of suspension design parameters, such as roll
stiffness and damping, stiffness in the heave mode and
locations of roll centers. Design guidelines for
suspension parameters to improve rollover resistance
were discussed. In particular, an analytical expression
for the optimal roll center height from the viewpoint of
rollover resistance was developed. The analytical results
obtained are supported by the results of simulations,
which show that the lateral accelerations at the rollover
threshold predicted by the model are in a reasonably
good agreement with the results of simulations. The
area of possible future improvements include modeling
of nonlinearities of suspension stiffness characteristics,
which play especially important role in modeling
rollovers of fully loaded vehicles. The results of analysis
and simulations also indicate that for a marginally stable
SUVs, the variations in suspension parameters can
change the character of vehicle response from unstable
to stable in typical dynamic rollover tests considered by
NHTSA, without changing the static stability factor.

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