A kind of intelligent vehicle–road model based on look-ahead reference system is established. According to the state equation, a novel sliding mode variable structure control algorithm is proposed. The sliding function is defined using pole placement technology, while the trending motion is determined by exponential reaching law. Accordingly, the effect of poles and reaching law parameters to close loop control system is analyzed in depth in order to design a good performance automatic control system. Finally, the developed sliding mode controller is validated by simulation study. Simulation results show that the designed controller has good performance in road tracking scenario.