Research Papers

A Human-Inspired Method for Point-to-Point and Path-Following Navigation of Mobile Robots

[+] Author and Article Information
F. Heidari

Mechanical Engineering Department,
University of Saskatchewan,
57 Campus Drive,
Saskatoon S7N 5A9, Canada

R. Fotouhi

Mechanical Engineering Department,
University of Saskatchewan,
57 Campus Drive,
Saskatoon S7N 5A9, Canada
e-mail: reza.fotouhi@usask.ca

1Corresponding author.

Manuscript received January 15, 2014; final manuscript received May 24, 2015; published online July 27, 2015. Assoc. Editor: Andrew P. Murray.

J. Mechanisms Robotics 7(4), 041025 (Jul 27, 2015) (18 pages) Paper No: JMR-14-1028; doi: 10.1115/1.4030775 History: Received January 15, 2014

This paper describes a human-inspired method (HIM) and a fully integrated navigation strategy for a wheeled mobile robot in an outdoor farm setting. The proposed strategy is composed of four main actions: sensor data analysis, obstacle detection, obstacle avoidance, and goal seeking. Using these actions, the navigation approach is capable of autonomous row-detection, row-following, and path planning motion in outdoor settings. In order to drive the robot in off-road terrain, it must detect holes or ground depressions (negative obstacles) that are inherent parts of these environments, in real-time at a safe distance from the robot. Key originalities of the proposed approach are its capability to accurately detect both positive (over ground) and negative obstacles, and accurately identify the end of the rows of bushes (e.g., in a farm) and enter the next row. Experimental evaluations were carried out using a differential wheeled mobile robot in different settings. The robot, used for experiments, utilizes a tilting unit, which carries a laser range finder (LRF) to detect objects, and a real-time kinematics differential global positioning system (RTK-DGPS) unit for localization. Experiments demonstrate that the proposed technique is capable of successfully detecting and following rows (path following) as well as robust navigation of the robot for point-to-point motion control.

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Campus Farm Field, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan, Canada.
CNH Farm Field North of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


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Fig. 1

The structure of the robot navigation algorithm

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Fig. 2

Geometric configuration of the mobile robot

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Fig. 3

General model of the robot for path following

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Fig. 4

Polar (r–θ) representation of a line

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Fig. 5

(a) A group of lines passing through a point (x0, y0); (b) each line can be represented by a pair of (ri, θi) that becomes a sinusoidal curve at the ri–θi plane

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Fig. 6

(a) Collinear points with normal parameterization of (r0, θ0). (b) Collinear points are transformed into curves that intersect in a single point in the r–θ plane.

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Fig. 7

(a) Original laser point clouds. (b) Hough transform of the points. (c) Line detection using the Hough transform algorithm. Detected lines are shown in light blue (lighter gray in print).

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Fig. 8

Row of bushes detected by the LRF, and lines (1) and (3) generated by the Hough transform

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Fig. 10

2D point clouds acquired by the LRF in two example scenes: (Left) titling angle θ = 10 deg; (Right) the angle θ = −15 deg. The point clouds are analyzed for path planning and obstacle avoidance algorithms.

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Fig. 11

Spherical mapping for laser point clouds

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Fig. 12

(a) A sample scene. (b) Section A-A view of the obstacle map generated using the laser data (point cloud) for scene in (a).

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Fig. 13

A local map of the environment generated using laser data from Fig. 12

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Fig. 14

Terrain slope definition

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Fig. 15

Estimating the normal vector at point P

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Fig. 16

A sample of the traversable region modeling from the laser scanner data: traversable paths are depicted as dashed lines. The width of the AGV is also shown along these paths. The axes are in meters.

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Fig. 17

Fuzzy membership functions for measured distance

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Fig. 18

Fuzzy membership functions for change in the robot heading angle

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Fig. 19

Obstacle avoidance behavior of HIM

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Fig. 20

Sample 2D laser scanner data from the environment. Dark dots are obstacles detected by the laser scanner.

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Fig. 21

Different regions in the laser scanner view

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Fig. 22

Scape-points are defined as Si. Li is the distance from the scape-point Si to the robot position.

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Fig. 23

Two typical performance characteristics of the HIM for mobile robot navigation

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Fig. 24

Experimental outline: 4 × 4 differential drive Grizzly mobile robot (AGV), tilting LRF for obstacle detection, and a base RTK-DGPS for localization

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Fig. 25

Snapshots of the robot for a typical experiment: the robot is traveling from the “start point” to the “goal point,” using the HIM for obstacle avoidance. Left: robot at start point, middle: robot at midpoint, and right: robot at the goal point in a campus farm field [33].

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Fig. 26

Experimental results for validating navigation strategy for eight different setups (a)–(h). Solid line: robot’s path using the HIM; dashed line: robot’s path using the FLB approach.

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Fig. 27

Snapshots of the robot run for the experiment in setup 8: the robot is traversing from the start point to the goal point, using the HIM for obstacle avoidance. Top-left: the robot at start point, and bottom-right: the robot at the goal. Image sequence proceeds to the right and down. Tests were performed in Ref. [33].

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Fig. 28

Lines corresponding to the rows detected by the navigation method using the Hough transform, tested in Ref. [33]

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Fig. 29

A typical experimental result for row-detection and the path following scenario: desired and actual paths of the robot are depicted by dashed line and solid lines; bushes are shown by stars

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Fig. 30

Experimental results obtained for scenario 1 (path following test)

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Fig. 31

Experimental results obtained for scenario 2 (path following test)

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Fig. 32

Experimental results obtained for scenario 3 (path following test)

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Fig. 33

Experimental results obtained for scenario 4 (path following test)

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Fig. 34

Snapshots of the robot following a path on a hill in location [34]. Top-left: the robot at the start point, and bottom-right: the robot at the end-point. Image sequence proceeds to the right and down.

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Fig. 35

Experimental results obtained for scenario 5 (path following test)

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Fig. 36

Snapshots of the robot following a path while avoiding obstacles, tested in [33]

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Fig. 37

Experimental results for the path following scenario in the presence of both positive and negative obstacles on the way of the robot. The size of positive obstacle was 50 × 50 × 40 cm (length × width × height), and the hole depth and diameter was 50 cm.




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