A Motion Planner for Nonholonomic Robots

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J-P. Laumond, P. E. Jacobs, M. Taix and R. M. Murray
IEEE T. Robotics and Automation, 10: (5) 577-593

This paper considers the problem of motion planning for a car-like robot (i.e., a mobile robot with a nonholonomic constraint whose turning radius is lower-bounded). We present a fast and exact planner for our mobile robot model, based upon recursive subdivision of a collision-free path generated by a lower-level geometric planner that ignores the motion constraints. The resultant trajectory is optimized to give a path that is of near-minimal length in its homotopy class. Our claims of high speed are supported by experimental results for implementations that assume a robot moving amid polygonal obstacles. The completeness and the complexity of the algorithm are proven using an appropriate metric in the configuration space R2 x S1 of the robot. This metric is defined by using the length of the shortest paths in the absence of obstacles as the distance between two configurations. We prove that the new induced topology and the classical one are the same. Although we concentration upon the car-like robot, the generalization of these techniques leads to new theoretical issues involving sub-Riemannian geometry and to practical results for nonholonomic motion planning.

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