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A new architecture for controlling mobile robots is described. Layers of control system are built to let the robot operate at increasing levels of competence. Layers are made up of asynchronous modules that communicate over low-bandwidth channels. Each module is an instance of a fairly simple computational machine. Higher-level layers can subsume the roles of lower levels by suppressing their outputs. However, lower levels continue to function as higher levels are added. The result is a robust and flexible robot control system. The system has been used to control a mobile robot wandering around unconstrained laboratory areas and computer machine rooms. Eventually it is intended to control a robot that wanders the office areas of our laboratory, building maps of its surroundings using an onboard arm to perform simple tasks.
Date of Publication: Mar 1986