Robot path planning in dynamic environments using a simulated annealing based approach


Mobile robots are widely used in many industrial fields. Research on path planning for mobile robots is one of the most important aspects in mobile robots research. Path planning for a mobile robot is to find a collision-free route, through the robot’s environment with obstacles, from a specified start location to a desired goal destination while satisfying certain optimization criteria. Most of the existing path planning methods, such as the visibility graph, the cell decomposition, and the potential field are designed with the focus on static environments, in which there are only stationary obstacles. However, in practical systems such as Marine Science Research, Robots in Mining Industry, and RoboCup games, robots usually face dynamic environments, in which both moving and stationary obstacles exist. Because of the complexity of the dynamic environments, research on path planning in the environments with dynamic obstacles is limited. Limited numbers of papers have been published in this area in comparison with hundreds of reports on path planning in stationary environments in the open literature. Recently, a genetic algorithm based approach has been introduced to plan the optimal path for a mobile robot in a dynamic environment with moving obstacles. However, with the increase of the number of the obstacles in the environment, and the changes of the moving speed and direction of the robot and obstacles, the size of the problem to be solved increases sharply. Consequently, the performance of the genetic algorithm based approach deteriorates significantly. This motivates the research of this work. This research develops and implements a simulated annealing algorithm based approach to find the optimal path for a mobile robot in a dynamic environment with moving obstacles. The simulated annealing algorithm is an optimization algorithm similar to the genetic algorithm in principle. However, our investigation and simulations have indicated that the simulated annealing algorithm based approach is simpler and easier to implement. Its performance is also shown to be superior to that of the genetic algorithm based approach in both online and offline processing times as well as in obtaining the optimal solution for path planning of the robot in the dynamic environment. The first step of many path planning methods is to search an initial feasible path for the robot. A commonly used method for searching the initial path is to randomly pick up some vertices of the obstacles in the search space. This is time consuming in both static and dynamic path planning, and has an important impact on the efficiency of the dynamic path planning. This research proposes a heuristic method to search the feasible initial path efficiently. Then, the heuristic method is incorporated into the proposed simulated annealing algorithm based approach for dynamic robot path planning. Simulation experiments have shown that with the incorporation of the heuristic method, the developed simulated annealing algorithm based approach requires much shorter processing time to get the optimal solutions in the dynamic path planning problem. Furthermore, the quality of the solution, as characterized by the length of the planned path, is also improved with the incorporated heuristic method in the simulated annealing based approach for both online and offline path planning

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