Robot navigation is a complex process that involves real-time localization, obstacle avoidance, map update, control, and path planning. Thus, it is also a computationally expensive process, especially in multi-robot systems. This paper presents a cooperative multi-robot navigation scheme in which a robot can ‘hitchhike’ another robot, i.e., two robots going to the same (or close) destination navigate together in a leader–follower system assisted by visual servoing. Although such cooperative navigation has many benefits compared to traditional approaches with separate navigation, there are many constraints to implementing such a system. A sensor network removes those constraints by enabling multiple robots to communicate with each other to exchange meaningful information such as their respective positions, goal and destination locations, and drastically improves the efficiency of symbiotic multi-robot navigation through hitchhiking. We show that the proposed system enables efficient navigation of multi-robots without loss of information in a sensor network. Efficiency improvements in terms of reduced waiting time of the hitchhiker, not missing potential drivers, best driver-profile match, and velocity tuning are discussed. Novel algorithms for partial hitchhiking, and multi-driver hitchhiking are proposed. A novel case of hitchhiking based simultaneous multi-robot teleoperation by a single operation is also proposed. All the proposed algorithms are verified by experiments in both simulation and real environment.
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