Obstacle avoidance systems for autonomous driving vehicles have significant effects on driving safety. The performance of an obstacle avoidance system is affected by the obstacle avoidance path planning approach. To design an obstacle avoidance path planning method, firstly, by analyzing the obstacle avoidance behavior of a human driver, a safety model of obstacle avoidance is constructed. Then, based on the safety model, the artificial potential field method is improved and the repulsive field range of obstacles are rebuilt. Finally, based on the improved artificial potential field, a collision-free path for autonomous driving vehicles is generated. To verify the performance of the proposed algorithm, co-simulation and real vehicle tests are carried out. Results show that the generated path satisfies the constraints of roads, dynamics, and kinematics. The real time performance, effectiveness, and feasibility of the proposed path planning approach for obstacle avoidance scenarios are also verified.