Navigational control apparatus and method for autonomus vehicles

  • US 5,321,614 A
  • Filed: 06/06/1991
  • Issued: 06/14/1994
  • Est. Priority Date: 06/06/1991
  • Status: Expired due to Term
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First Claim
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1. An autonomous self-navigating vehicle comprising:

  • (a) digitally controlled drive means connected to a vehicle structure for driving the vehicle structure along a line across a substantially horizontal and planar work surface in either a forward direction or a rearward direction, and for turning the vehicle structure in either a clockwise direction or counterclockwise direction with zero turning radius;

    (b) obstacle sensor means connected to the vehicle structure for detecting an obstacle adjacent to the vehicle structure and for producing a plurality of obstacle signals, one of the obstacle signals being produced each time the obstacle sensor means detects an obstacle;

    (c) search memory storage means connected to the vehicle structure for storing a two-dimensional memory array having sufficient size to represent a work area in which the vehicle is to operate, the two-dimensional memory array comprising a plurality of array elements, each array element representing a unique work area increment within the work area, and the work area being arbitrarily shaped and bounded entirely by an obstacle; and

    (d) data processing means connected to the vehicle structure for producing a plurality of drive signals that direct the drive means to drive the vehicle into successive work area increments from an origin work area increment represented by an array element containing an origin marker, and for recording in each successive array element corresponding to each said successive work area increment an obstacle marker upon receipt of one of the obstacle signals from the obstacle sensor means, a direction vector indicating the direction taken by the vehicle to initially reach said successive work area increment, and an explored marker until the vehicle reaches the origin work area increment and all adjacent array elements representing work area increments adjacent to the origin work area increment contain either one of the explored markers or one of the obstacle markers.

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