Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 July 2014
In robotics, simulation has become an essential tool for research, education, and design purposes. Various software tools for mobile robot simulation have been developed and have reached different levels of maturity in recent years. This paper presents a general survey of mobile robot simulation tools and discusses qualitative and quantitative aspects of selection of four major simulators publicly available at no cost: Carmen, Player-Stage-Gazebo, Open Dynamics Engine, and Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio. The comparison of the simulators is aimed at establishing the range of applications for which these are best suited as well as their accuracy for certain simulation tasks. The simulators chosen for detailed comparison were selected considering their level of maturity, modularity, and popularity among engineers and researchers. The qualitative comparison included a discussion of relevant features. The quantitative analysis entailed the development of a detailed dynamical model of a mobile robot on a road with varying slope. This model was used as benchmark to compare the accuracy of each simulator. The validity of the simulated results was also contrasted against measurements obtained from experiments with a real robot. This research and analysis should be very valuable to educators, engineers, and researchers who are always seeking adequate tools for simulating autonomous mobile robots.