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We describe the development and assessment of a computer controlled wheelchair equipped with a suite of sensors and a novel interface, called the SMARTCHAIR. The main focus of this paper is a shared control framework which allows the human operator to interact with the chair while it is performing an autonomous task. At the highest level, the autonomous system is able to plan paths using high level deliberative navigation behaviors depending on destinations or waypoints commanded by the user. The user is able to locally modify or override previously commanded autonomous behaviors or plans. This is possible because of our hierarchical control strategy that combines three independent sources of control inputs: deliberative plans obtained from maps and user commands, reactive behaviors generated by stimuli from the environment, and user-initiated commands that might arise during the execution of a plan or behavior. The framework we describe ensures the user's safety while allowing the user to be in complete control of a potentially autonomous system.
Date Posted: 24 November 2004
This document has been peer reviewed.