# Path Smoothing Techniques in Robot Navigation: State-of-the-Art, Current and Future Challenges

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## Abstract

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## 1. Introduction

## 2. A Short Note on Path Continuity

## 3. Interpolation Based Path Smoothing

#### 3.1. Polynomial Interpolation

#### 3.2. Bézier Curve

#### 3.3. Cubic Splines

#### 3.4. B-Spline

#### 3.5. NURBS Curve

## 4. Path Smoothing Using Special Curves

#### 4.1. Dubin’s Curve

#### 4.2. Clothoid

#### 4.3. Hypocycloid

## 5. Optimization-Based Path Smoothing

## 6. A Note on Transition Curves

## 7. Robot Trajectories with Obstacle Avoidance

## 8. Challenges

**Trajectory smoothing in dynamic environments**: One of the biggest constraint in these terms is the speed of detection of dynamic entities which is directly affected by the total number of entities tracked. Hence, in an environment like an open public space, there are a lot of dynamic entities for the mobile robot to track which consumes a lot of time. This has an adverse effect on the trajectory smoothing process as the robot ends up stopping suddenly or considerably reducing the speed while trying to select the best possible alternate trajectory among the potential candidates. It is important to accurately track these dynamic entities in conjunction to path smoothing. This is more challenging in autonomous self driving cars at high speeds. Work in [169] has succinctly summarized the challenges in pedestrian detection considering the resolution, range, and field-of-view of various on-borad sensors like radar, lidar, or omni-directional cameras with various types of hardwares. In addition, work in [170] has focused the survey of challenges of pedestrian detection with vision based sensors which are very prominent recently. In adverse conditions like low illumination, night, snowfall, and rain, it is further difficult to detect the dynamic entities while work has been done in this regards by using thermal images [171]. In both indoor and outdoor environments, occlusion is another big hindrance with dynamic entity detection and solutions have been proposed [172,173], although it still is an open problem.**Fusing trajectory smoothing into SLAM process**: SLAM in an indispensable module for any mobile robot. Even autonomous vehicles need to localize themselves in the environment and build or update their map using perceptive sensors like GPS, cameras, or range sensors. SLAM models the uncertainty of the robot motion and the sensor errors to come up with the most optimum state estimation [5,174]. Trajectory generation is directly linked with currently estimated state and perception and hence fusing it in the SLAM module is beneficial. Currently, it seems like SLAM module is decoupled from the trajectory smoothing module. However, the two modules must work side-by-side to update the map with the new obstacles or entities and generate real-time smooth trajectories on the fly. Work in [175] presents a motion planning algorithm considering both the uncertainty caused by robot and dynamic entities. The motion of dynamic entities are predicted using a local planner, and the uncertainty along the predicted trajectory is computed based on Gaussian propagation. In this regard, a relative continuous-time SLAM has been proposed by Anderson et al. [176] which uses weights on cubic B-splines to represent continuous state variables. Only the local weights are adjusted during optimization, while implicit trajectory prior is arbitrary. In [177], a Simultaneous Trajectory Estimation and Mapping (STEAM) is proposed which uses Gaussian Process (GP) regression instead of cubic B-splines. It interpolates between conventional state parameterizations at certain key times. When applied in SE3, this parameterization can represent realistic probabilistic trajectories obeying nonlinear, nonholonomic motion models. Although slow for dense kernels, a careful selection can result in realistic sparse GP kernels that are very fast. A non-uniform sampling of the trajectory representation over the sliding window with continuous correction is presented in [178]. In [179], a dense map-centric SLAM method based on a continuous-time trajectory is proposed which removes the need for global trajectory optimization by introducing map deformation. Some other recent significant works in continuous-time SLAM are [180,181,182,183], while a broad overview of challenges in SLAM can be found in [184].**Operator in the loop, Safety, and User Experience**: In case of tele-operated robots, currently, the trajectory generation and control lacks the input from the operator. This is more important in case of autonomous vehicles to feedback the planned trajectory to the driver, and generate smooth trajectories based on driver’s intentions. This requires active feedback mechanisms and integration of human-robot integration [185,186,187]. Researchers have proposed work in this regard in [188,189] by proposing a trajectory planning algorithm that ‘adapts’ to traffic on a lane-structured infrastructure such as highways. In many researches, the emphasis has been on the mathematical completeness of the system while the user-experience seems to get ignored. For instance, in case of an autonomous robot wheelchair used in hospitals, safety is important and the wheelchair must not come close to either of the walls. Hence, in this particular scenario, it is important that the robot wheelchair moves in nearly a straight line in the center lane of the passage. However, aiming for ${\mathrm{C}}^{2}$ or higher continuities, many algorithms generate a path which brings the robot close to either of the walls. For example, Figure 11a shows the results of paths generated by D* [19], PRM [25], QPMI [39], and SHP [117] in dotted green, red, black, and blue colors, respectively (results reproduced from [117]). The curve in black is ${\mathrm{C}}^{2}$ continuous, however, it brings the robot too close to the obstacles at points ${\mathrm{Q}}_{2}$ and ${\mathrm{Q}}_{3}$. On the other hand, SHP [117] curve in blue keeps the robot sufficiently far from the obstacles and keeps straight segments of the path straight considering the input from operators of robot wheelchair. Such safe paths are easy to generate particularly on grid-maps by using Voronoi paths [190], or using thinning algorithms [191,192] or skeleton maps [193,194]. Figure 11b shows the skeleton path of the environment shown in Figure 11a. In conjunction to the previous point, the feedback from the operator must be fused, and operator intentions must be anticipated to generate smooth paths. With the advent of autonomous cars and platforms like fully autonomous robotic wheelchair, the concept of user experience especially in terms of passenger comfort is being re-evaluated. This is a relatively new area of research with a strong correlation with smooth trajectory generation, and some promising research has been proposed in [195,196,197,198,199,200].

## 9. Discussion and Conclusions

## Author Contributions

## Funding

## Conflicts of Interest

## References

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**Figure 1.**The green path is a path consisting of straight lines and sharp turns at points $\mathrm{A},\mathrm{B},\mathrm{C},\mathrm{D},$ and $\mathrm{E}$. A smooth and continuous path is shown in red color.

**Figure 2.**Parametric continuity. (

**a**) Discontinuous curve segments. (

**b**) ${C}^{0}$ continuity. (

**c**) ${C}^{1}$ continuity. (

**d**) ${C}^{2}$ continuity.

**Figure 3.**Bezier curve through control points ${\mathrm{P}}_{0},{\mathrm{P}}_{1},\cdots ,{\mathrm{P}}_{4}$.

**Figure 4.**An example of path smoothing using B-Spline. The green path is the global path while the red path is the smooth path. The green dots are the control points.

**Figure 5.**B-Spline-based robot path smoothing with varying number of control points and degrees. (

**a**,

**c**,

**e**) shows closed path (robot returns to the same location) while (

**b**,

**d**,

**f**) shows open paths. (

**a**) Closed path, 9 control points. (

**b**) Open path, 9 control points. (

**c**) Closed path, 18 control points. (

**d**) Open path, 17 control points. (

**e**) Closed path, 36 control points. (

**f**) Open path, 35 control points.

**Figure 6.**Path smoothing using Dubin’s curve. Straight segments $\overline{\mathrm{AB}}$, $\overline{\mathrm{CD}}$, and $\overline{\mathrm{EF}}$ in red color are combined with circular arcs BC and DE shown in green color.

**Figure 7.**Curves for path smoothing. (

**a**) Astroid. (

**b**) Deltoid. (

**c**) Circle Involute. (

**d**) Cycloid. (

**e**) Logarithmic Spiral. (

**f**) Clothoid or Cornu Spiral (Euler’s Spiral).

**Figure 8.**SHP [117] generation with different angles. The first segment of the curve in blue is taken to generate SHP, whereas other curve segments in black and red are ignored. (

**a**) $\theta =15.3$${}^{\circ}$. (

**b**) $\theta =31.4$${}^{\circ}$. (

**c**) $\theta =64$${}^{\circ}$. (

**d**) $\theta =78$${}^{\circ}$. (

**e**) $\theta =111.9$${}^{\circ}$. (

**f**) $\theta =150$${}^{\circ}$.

**Figure 9.**Transition Curve. (

**a**) Point A is shifted back to A’ which is the starting point of the transition curve shown in blue. There is a gradual increase in curvature so that there is no sudden kink or jerk. (

**b**) Cubical parabola as a transition curve. (

**c**) Cornu Spiral or clothoid as a transition curve.

**Figure 10.**Problem of smooth trajectory generation while avoiding collision with obstacles with the case of B-Spline-based smoothing. (

**a**) Smooth path in red color collides with the obstacle. (

**b**) Inclusion of extra control point at $x=30$ avoids collision. (

**c**) Smooth path with extra control point at $x=35$. (

**d**) Smooth path with extra control point at $x=40$.

Classification | Main Advantages (+) and Disadvantages (−) |
---|---|

Dubins Curve | + Fast to compute for given configuration of obstacles. |

+ Dubin’s curves are easy to compute even on low spec hardware. | |

+ Shortest paths are assured. | |

− These curves do not have curvature continuity. | |

− Robot will experience a jerk at the point of transition of straight line and circle. | |

Bezier Curve | + Bezier curves have low computational cost. |

+ Control points can generate curve of desired characteristic. | |

+ Bezier curves can be connected with each other to get desired shape. | |

− With increasing degree of curves, computation costs increase. | |

− Difficult to adjust for curves with higher degrees. | |

− Global waypoints affect the entire curve | |

− It might be difficult to place control points. | |

Splines | + Splines have low computational cost. |

+ They can easily provide ${C}^{2}$ continuity desired for robots. | |

+ Knots can easily control the shape of splines. | |

− It might be difficult to balance the trade-off between continuity and desired shape. | |

NURBS | + NURBS are easy to compute, with fast and stable computation. |

+ They can be very flexible to generate desired trajectories. | |

+ They are invariant under shear, translation, rotation, or scaling. | |

+ They are powerful tools used in CAD/CAM applications. | |

− NURBS require more memory storage. | |

− Improper initialization of weights can lead to bad parametrization. | |

Clothoids | + Clothoids curvature changes linearly. |

+ Curvature continuity is easy to obtain. | |

+ Clothoids can be used as transition curves in conjunction to other curves. | |

+ Heavily used in railway track and highway road designs. | |

− Fresnel’s integral might be difficult to compute. | |

− Clothoid based planning uses global waypoints. | |

Interpolation Methods | + Generally easy to compute. |

+ Curves can be concatenated to get desired shape. | |

+ Fit for local planning for safety. | |

− Difficult to control coefficients of curves of higher order ($>4$). | |

− Curves of higher order are time consuming and not suitable for high speeds. | |

Hypocycloids | + Easy to compute. |

+ Can be generated for desired angles. | |

− ${C}^{2}$ continuity is not guaranteed. | |

− Requires using transition curves (clothoids) for curvature continuity. | |

− Not suitable for robots at high speeds. | |

Optimization Methods | + Various constraints can be taken into account while optimizing. |

+ Can be combined with other approaches. | |

− Depends on global pathways. | |

− Optimization is time consuming and might not necessarily converge. |

© 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

## Share and Cite

**MDPI and ACS Style**

Ravankar, A.; Ravankar, A.A.; Kobayashi, Y.; Hoshino, Y.; Peng, C.-C.
Path Smoothing Techniques in Robot Navigation: State-of-the-Art, Current and Future Challenges. *Sensors* **2018**, *18*, 3170.
https://doi.org/10.3390/s18093170

**AMA Style**

Ravankar A, Ravankar AA, Kobayashi Y, Hoshino Y, Peng C-C.
Path Smoothing Techniques in Robot Navigation: State-of-the-Art, Current and Future Challenges. *Sensors*. 2018; 18(9):3170.
https://doi.org/10.3390/s18093170

**Chicago/Turabian Style**

Ravankar, Abhijeet, Ankit A. Ravankar, Yukinori Kobayashi, Yohei Hoshino, and Chao-Chung Peng.
2018. "Path Smoothing Techniques in Robot Navigation: State-of-the-Art, Current and Future Challenges" *Sensors* 18, no. 9: 3170.
https://doi.org/10.3390/s18093170