Building safer robots: safety driven control

In recent years there has been a concerted effort to address many of the safety issues associated with physical human-robot interaction (pHRI). However, a number of challenges remain. For personal robots, and those intended to operate in unstructured environments, the problem of safety is compounded. In this paper we argue that traditional system design techniques fail to capture the complexities associated with dynamic environments. We present an overview of our safety-driven control system and its implementation methodology. The methodology builds on traditional functional hazard analysis, with the addition of processes aimed at improving the safety of autonomous personal robots. This will be achieved with the use of a safety system developed during the hazard analysis stage. This safety system, called the safety protection system, will initially be used to verify that safety constraints, identified during hazard analysis, have been implemented appropriately. Subsequently it will serve as a high-level safety enforcer, by governing the actions of the robot and preventing the control layer from performing unsafe operations. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the design, a series of experiments have been conducted using a MobileRobots PeopleBot. Finally, results are presented demonstrating how faults injected into a controller can be consistently identified and handled by the safety protection system.

Source : Woodman R, Winfield AFT, Harper C, Fraser M. Building safer robots: Safety driven control, Int. J. Rob. Res. 2012; 31(13): 1603-1626.

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