Unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) are gaining importance and finding increased utility in both military and commercial applications. Although earlier UGV platforms were typically exclusively small ground robots, recent efforts started targeting passenger vehicle and larger size platforms. Due to their size and speed, these platforms have significantly different dynamics than small robots, and therefore the existing hazard avoidance algorithms, which were developed for small robots, may not deliver the desired performance. The goal of this paper is to present the first steps towards a model predictive control (MPC) based hazard avoidance algorithm for large UGVs that accounts for the vehicle dynamics through high fidelity models and uses only local information about the environment as provided by the onboard sensors. Specifically, the paper presents the MPC formulation for hazard avoidance using a light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensor and applies it to a case study to investigate the impact of model fidelity on the performance of the algorithm, where performance is measured mainly by the time to reach the target point. Towards this end, the case study compares a 2 degrees-of-freedom (DoF) vehicle dynamics representation to a 14 DoF representation as the model used in MPC. The results show that the 2 DoF model can perform comparable to the 14 DoF model if the safe steering range is established using the 14 DoF model rather than the 2 DoF model itself. The conclusion is that high fidelity models are needed to push autonomous vehicles to their limits to increase their performance, but simulating the high fidelity models online within the MPC may not be as critical as using them to establish the safe control input limits.

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