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A sonar-based mapping and navigation system developed for an autonomous mobile robot operating in unknown and unstructured environments is described. The system uses sonar range data to build a multileveled description of the robot's surroundings. Sonar readings are interpreted using probability profiles to determine empty and occupied areas. Range measurements from multiple points of view are integrated into a sensor-level sonar map, using a robust method that combines the sensor information in such a way as to cope with uncertainties and errors in the data. The resulting two-dimensional maps are used for path planning and navigation. From these sonar maps, multiple representations are developed for various kinds of problem-solving activities. Several dimensions of representation are defined: the abstraction axis, the geographical axis, and the resolution axis. The sonar mapping procedures have been implemented as part of an autonomous mobile robot navigation system called Dolphin. The major modules of this system are described and related to the various mapping representations used. Results from actual runs are presented, and further research is mentioned. The system is also situated within the wider context of developing an advanced software architecture for autonomous mobile robots.
Date of Publication: June 1987