A novel soft switching control approach is presented in this paper for autonomous vehicles by using a new functional model for Basal Ganglia (BG). In the proposed approach, a family of fundamental controllers is treated as each of a set of basic controllers are thought of as an 'action' which may be selected by the BG in a soft switching regime for real-time control of autonomous vehicle systems. Three controllers, i.e., conventional Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) controller, a PID structure-based pole-zero placement controller, and a pole only placement controller are used in this paper to support the proposed soft switching control strategy. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed soft switching approach for nonlinear autonomous vehicle control (AVC), the throttle, brake and steering subsystems are focused on in this paper because they are three key subsystems in the whole AVC system. Simulation results are provided to illustrate the performance and effectiveness of the proposed soft switching control approach by applying it to the abovementioned subsystems.