Even if there are many software and mathematical models available in the literature to analyze the dynamic performance of Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), it is always difficult to identify or collect the required vehicle parameters from the vehicle manufacturer for simulation. In analyzing the vehicle handling performance, a difficult and complex task is to use an appropriate tire model that can accurately characterize the ground-wheel interaction. Though, the well-known ‘Magic Formula’ is widely used for this purpose, it requires expensive test equipment to estimate the Magic Formula coefficients.

The design of longitudinal and lateral controllers plays a significant role in path tracking of an UGV. Though the speed of the vehicle may remain almost constant in most of the maneuvers such as lane change, Double Lane Change (DLC), step steer, cornering, etc., design of the lateral controller is always a challenging task as it depends on the vehicle parameters, road information and also on the steering actuator dynamics. Although a mathematical model is an abstraction of the actual system, the controller is designed based on this model and then deployed on the real system.

In this paper, a realistic mathematical model of the vehicle considering the steering actuator dynamics has been developed by calculating the cornering stiffnesses from the basic tire information and the vertical load on each tire. A heading angle controller of the UGV has been considered using the Point-to-Point navigation algorithm. Then, these controllers have been implemented on a test platform equipped with an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and a Global Positioning System (GPS).

A wide range of experiments such as J-Turn, lane change and DLC have also been conducted for comparison with the simulation results. Sensitivity analysis has been carried out to check the robustness and stability of the controller by varying the cornering stiffness of tires, the most uncertain parameter. The longitudinal speed of the vehicle is assumed to vary between a minimum value of 1.4 m/s and a maximum value of 20 m/s. It has been found that when the vehicle is moving at a constant velocity of 3.2 m/s, a heading angle change of 20 degrees can be achieved within 3 seconds with 2% steady state error using a proportional controller. It was observed that at lower speeds, the controller is more sensitive to the steering actuator dynamics and at higher speeds, the controller is more sensitive to the cornering stiffness of tires.

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