Nonlinear Model Predictive Control for Autonomous Vehicles

Abstract: In this thesis we consider the problem of designing and implementing Model Predictive Controllers (MPC) for stabilizing the dynamics of an autonomous ground vehicle. For such a class of systems, the non-linear dynamics and the fast sampling time limit the real-time implementation of MPC algorithms to local and linear operating regions. This phenomenon becomes more relevant when using the limited computational resources of a standard rapid prototyping system for automotive applications. In this thesis we first study the design and the implementation of a nonlinear MPC controller for an Active Font Steering (AFS) problem. At each time step a trajectory is assumed to be known over a finite horizon, and the nonlinear MPC controller computes the front steering angle in order to follow the trajectory on slippery roads at the highest possible entry speed. We demonstrate that experimental tests can be performed only at low vehicle speed on a dSPACE rapid prototyping system with a frequency of 20 Hz. Then, we propose a low complexity MPC algorithm which is real-time capable for wider operating range of the state and input space (i.e., high vehicle speed and large slip angles). The MPC control algorithm is based on successive on-line linearizations of the nonlinear vehicle model (LTV MPC). We study performance and stability of the proposed MPC scheme. Performance is improved through an ad hoc stabilizing state and input constraints arising from a careful study of the vehicle nonlinearities. The stability of the LTV MPC is enforced by means of an additional convex constraint to the finite time optimization problem. We used the proposed LTV MPC algorithm in order to design AFS controllers and combined steering and braking controllers. We validated the proposed AFS and combined steering and braking MPC algorithms in real-time, on a passenger vehicle equipped with a dSPACE rapid prototyping system. Experiments have been performed in a testing center equipped with snowy and icy tracks. For both controllers we showed that vehicle stabilization can be achieved at high speed (up to 75 Kph) on icy covered roads. This research activity has been supported by Ford Research Laboratories, in Dearborn, MI, USA.

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