Building safer robots: Safety driven control

Roger Woodman, Alan F.T. Winfield, Chris Harper, Mike Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (SciVal)


In recent years there has been a concerted effort to address many of the safety issues associated with physical human-robot interaction (pHRI). However, a number of challenges remain. For personal robots, and those intended to operate in unstructured environments, the problem of safety is compounded. In this paper we argue that traditional system design techniques fail to capture the complexities associated with dynamic environments. We present an overview of our safety-driven control system and its implementation methodology. The methodology builds on traditional functional hazard analysis, with the addition of processes aimed at improving the safety of autonomous personal robots. This will be achieved with the use of a safety system developed during the hazard analysis stage. This safety system, called the safety protection system, will initially be used to verify that safety constraints, identified during hazard analysis, have been implemented appropriately. Subsequently it will serve as a high-level safety enforcer, by governing the actions of the robot and preventing the control layer from performing unsafe operations. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the design, a series of experiments have been conducted using a MobileRobots PeopleBot. Finally, results are presented demonstrating how faults injected into a controller can be consistently identified and handled by the safety protection system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1603-1626
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Robotics Research
Issue number13
Early online date4 Sept 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012


  • hazard analysis
  • Robot safety
  • safety protection system
  • safety-driven control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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