Formation Planning and Control of UGVs with Trailers

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This paper provides a framework for planning and control of formations of multiple unmanned ground vehicles with trailers to traverse between goal points in an idealized, disturbance-free environment. This framework allows on-line planning of the formations using the A* search algorithm based on current sensor data. The formation is allowed to dynamically change in order to avoid obstacles in the environment while minimizing a cost function aimed at obtaining collision-free and deadlock-free paths. Based on a feasible path for a leader of the group and the differential flatness property of a truck-tractor-trailer system, the trajectory planner satisfies the kinematic constraints of the individual vehicles while accounting for inter-vehicle collisions and path constraints. Also, optimization techniques are used to on-line change the path of the truck-tractor-trailer system. Illustrative simulations with simplified models of John Deere vehicles with trailers in formations are presented. Laboratory experiments are also performed on a 2-wheel differential drive mobile vehicle attached with a trailer cart on a flat, smooth floor using overhead cameras for precise references. The concluding section of the paper discusses some of the additional work needed to make the results applicable in a real-world environment.

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