Control and Guidance at the ESL Projects

Control and Guidance at the ESL

The control and guidance of an terrestrial vehicle is a currently a major focus of research within the autonomous vehicle field. Truly autonomous navigation requires the vehicle to not only plan safe paths based on information obtained from sensors, but also avoid any possible collisions by performing conflict detection and resolution. Routes are planned by determining the optimal connections between waypoints which the vehicle must pass through. The execution of a path is handled by a vehicle controller which usually consists of a measurement system and a feedback control algorithm for actuators. Control and guidance in conjunction with mapping is crucial for applications in search and rescue, exploration tasks, and automated inspections.

Current Projects


Planning for an Autonomous Vehicle in Uncertain Environments

Aidan Landsberg

Many potential applications of robotic vehicles require them to operate autonomously, reliably and efficiently in rough, unstructured and unknown environments. For a robotic vehicle to operate in such environments, it has to build a map of its environment, locate itself within the environment, as well as plan and execute safe and efficient paths. When large sections of the environment have not been observed and the map contains a lot of uncertainty, efficient path planning becomes a challenge: the robot has to balance exploration of the unknown sections of the environment with exploiting its knowledge of the known sections of the environment. In addition, the path planner needs to prevent collisions with objects and avoid terrain that is not easily traversable. This project seeks to investigate path planning techniques for a robotic ground vehicle in uncertain and unstructured environments.


Control and Path-tracking for an Autonomous ATV

Bongani Maseko

In autonomous mobile robotics a path-tracking algorithm ensures that the robot follows a planned obstacle-free path accurately. Deviation from this path exposes the robot to a risk of collision. Another important requirement in real-life autonomous navigation missions is that the vehicle must execute the various path segments at varying wheel-speeds, depending on e.g. the nature of the terrain and the curvature of that segment of the path.

The aim of this project is to design and implement steering and wheel-speed feedback control systems and a path-tracking algorithm meeting the above requirements for an autonomous all-terrain vehicle (ATV). The ‘divide and conquer’ design principle is applied to break the problem into 3 smaller chunks:


  • lateral control,
  • longitudinal control,
  • and a path tracking algorithm which optimally combines the two control modules (lateral and longitudinal) to ensure accurate tracking of the planned path.