Splined Speed Control using SpAM (Speed-based Acceleration Maps) for an Autonomous Ground Vehicle

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Virginia Tech

There are many forms of speed control for an autonomous ground vehicle currently in development. Most use a simple PID controller to achieve a speed specified by a higher-level motion planning algorithm. Simple controllers may not provide a desired acceleration profile for a ground vehicle. Also, without extensive tuning the PID controller may cause excessive speed overshoot and oscillation.

This paper examines an approach that was designed to allow a greater degree of control while reducing the computing load on the motion planning software.

The SpAM+PI (Speed-based Acceleration Map + Proportional Integral controller) algorithm outlined in this paper uses three inputs: current velocity, desired velocity and desired maximum acceleration, to determine throttle and brake commands that will allow the vehicle to achieve its correct speed. Because this algorithm resides on an external controller it does not add to the computational load of the motion planning computer. Also, with only two inputs that are needed only when there is a change in desired speed or maximum desired acceleration, network traffic between the computers can be greatly reduced.

The algorithm uses splines to smoothly plan a speed profile from the vehicle's current speed to its desired speed. It then uses a lookup table to determine the correct pedal position (throttle or brake) using the current vehicle speed and a desired instantaneous acceleration that was determined in the splining step of the algorithm. Once the pedal position is determined a PI controller is used to minimize error in the system.

The SpAM+PI approach is a novel approach to the speed control of an autonomous vehicle. This academic experiment is tested using Odin, Team Victor Tango's entry into the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge which won 3rd place and a $500,000 prize. The evaluation of the algorithm exposed both strengths and weaknesses that guide the next step in the development of a speed control algorithm.

SpAM, PID, PI Controller, Odin, velocity control, speed control, Splines, Team Victor Tango, DARPA Urban Challenge, Autonomous