Design and Operation of Autonomous Wheelchair Towing Robot

by   Hyunwoo Kang, et al.

In this study, a new concept of a wheelchair-towing robot for the facile electrification of manual wheelchairs is introduced. The development of this concept includes the design of towing robot hardware and an autonomous driving algorithm to ensure the safe transportation of patients to their intended destinations inside the hospital. We developed a novel docking mechanism to facilitate easy docking and separation between the towing robot and the manual wheelchair, which is connected to the front caster wheel of the manual wheelchair. The towing robot has a mecanum wheel drive, enabling the robot to move with a high degree of freedom in the standalone driving mode while adhering to kinematic constraints in the docking mode. Our novel towing robot features a camera sensor that can observe the ground ahead which allows the robot to autonomously follow color-coded wayfinding lanes installed in hospital corridors. This study introduces dedicated image processing techniques for capturing the lanes and control algorithms for effectively tracing a path to achieve autonomous path following. The autonomous towing performance of our proposed platform was validated by a real-world experiment in which a hospital environment with colored lanes was created.


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