A Semi-autonomous Wheelchair Navigation System
Thesis DisciplineMechanical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
Many mobility impaired users are unable to operate a powered wheelchair safely, without causing harm to themselves, others, and the environment. Smart wheelchairs that assist or replace user control have been developed to cater for these users, utilising systems and algorithms from autonomous robots. Despite a sustained period of research and development of robotic wheelchairs, there are very few available commercially.
This thesis describes work towards developing a navigation system that is aimed at being retro-fitted to powered wheelchairs. The navigation system developed takes a systems engineering approach, integrating many existing open-source software projects to deliver a system that would otherwise not be possible in the time frame of a master's thesis.
The navigation system introduced in this thesis is aimed at operating in an unstructured indoor environment, and requires no a priori information about the environment. The key components in the system are: obstacle avoidance, map building, localisation, path planning, and autonomously travelling towards a goal. The test electric wheelchair was instrumented with the following: a laptop, a laser scanner, wheel encoders, camera, and a variety of user input methods. The user interfaces that have been implemented and tested include a touch screen friendly graphical user interface, keyboard and joystick.