Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 January 2012
Exact knowledge of the position and proper calibration of robots that move by wheels form an important foundation in mobile robot applications. In this context, a variety of sensory systems and techniques have been developed for accurate positioning of differential drive mobile robots. This paper, first, provides a brief overview of mobile robots positioning techniques and then, presents a new benchmark method capable of calibrating mobile robots with differential drive mechanisms to correct systematic errors. The proposed method is compared with the commonly used University of Michigan Benchmark (UMBmark) odometry method. Two sets of comparisons are conducted on six prototyped robots with differential drives. The first set of tests establishes the workability and accuracy that can be achieved with the new method and compares them with the ones obtained from the UMBmark technique. The second experiment compares the performance of a mobile robot, calibrated with either the UMBmark or the new method, for an unseen path. It is demonstrated that the proposed method of calibration is simple to implement, and leads to accuracy comparable to the UMBmark method. Specifically, while the error corrections in both methods are within ±5% of each other, the proposed method requires single straight line motion for calibration, which is believed to be simpler and less timely to implement than the square path motion required by the UMBmark technique. The method should therefore be considered seriously as a new tool when calibrating differential drive mobile robots.