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Obstacle avoidance control of a human-in-the-loop mobile robot system using harmonic potential fields

  • C. Ton (a1), Z. Kan (a2) and S. S. Mehta (a3)

This paper considers applications where a human agent is navigating a semi-autonomous mobile robot in an environment with obstacles. The human input to the robot can be based on a desired navigation objective, which may not be known to the robot. Additionally, the semi-autonomous robot can be programmed to ensure obstacle avoidance as it navigates the environment. A shared control architecture can be used to appropriately fuse the human and the autonomy inputs to obtain a net control input that drives the robot. In this paper, an adaptive, near-continuous control allocation function is included in the shared controller, which continuously varies the control effort exerted by the human and the autonomy based on the position of the robot relative to obstacles. The developed control allocation function facilitates the human to freely navigate the robot when away from obstacles, and it causes the autonomy control input to progressively dominate as the robot approaches obstacles. A harmonic potential field-based non-linear sliding mode controller is developed to obtain the autonomy control input for obstacle avoidance. In addition, a robust feed-forward term is included in the autonomy control input to maintain stability in the presence of adverse human inputs, which can be critical in applications such as to prevent collision or roll-over of smart wheelchairs due to erroneous human inputs. Lyapunov-based stability analysis is presented to guarantee finite-time stability of the developed shared controller, i.e., the autonomy guarantees obstacle avoidance as the human navigates the robot. Experimental results are provided to validate the performance of the developed shared controller.

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