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Swarm robots can help control self-driving cars

Date: 26 February 2020 Tags: IT, Mobile & Computers


To help make self-driving vehicles safer and more flawless, the researchers have developed a decentralised algorithm with a collision-free, deadlock-free guarantee.



The researchers at Northwestern University in the US, tested the algorithm in a simulation of 1,024 robots and on a swarm of 100 real robots in the laboratory.



  • By understanding how to control swarm robots to form shapes, we can understand how to control fleets of autonomous vehicles as they interact with each other.

  • The advantage of a swarm of small robots versus one large robot or a swarm with one lead robot is the lack of a centralised control, which can quickly become a central point of failure. Rubenstein’s decentralised algorithm acts as a fail-safe.

  • In a decentralised system, there is no leader telling all the other robots what to do. Each robot makes its own decisions. If one robot fails in a swarm, the swarm can still accomplish the task.

  • The robots need to coordinate in order to avoid collisions and deadlock. To do this, the algorithm views the ground beneath the robots as a grid. By using technology similar to GPS, each robot is aware of where it sits on the grid.

  • Before making a decision about where to move, each robot uses sensors to communicate with its neighbours, determining whether or not nearby spaces within the grid are vacant or occupied.

  • The robots refuse to move to a spot until that spot is free and until they know that no other robots are moving to that same spot, they are careful and reserve a space ahead of time.

  • In Rubenstein’s swarm, for example, 100 robots can coordinate to form a shape within a minute. In some previous approaches, it could take a full hour.The algorithm could be used in fleets of driverless cars and in automated warehouse.