Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Mobility Performance of Robotic Systems


Mobile robots are expanding their capabilities well beyond the traditional role of Automatic/Automated/Autonomous Guided Vehicles (A-UGV) as they attain greater onboard intelligence.  No longer limited to transporting parts throughout a factory, they can also now bring robot arms to where they’re needed as mobile manipulators.  A further related extension is that of wearable robots, in which a human’s capabilities and safety are enhanced.   Despite the seeming difference in these three categories of robots, there are many commonalities in how their performance and safety need to be evaluated.  The key idea in this project is to develop the measurement science needed to characterize and clearly communicate performance and safety capabilities of industrial vehicles, mobile manipulators, and wearable robots.


Provide the measurement science to develop standard test methods for intelligent industrial mobility systems, including mobile robots, mobile manipulators, and exoskeletons.

New Technical Idea

This project will expand prior work on safety standards and performance test methods for A-UGVs, mobile manipulators, and the exoskeleton exploratory project under a unified framework which leverages common reference measurements and evaluation techniques.  The project’s methodology for designing metrics and test methods also takes into account significant advances in mobile robot intelligence and autonomy anticipated to occur in the coming years.  The project will define key performance metrics and develop test methods that can be used by all stakeholders in the mobile robot systems community to communicate unambiguously about performance requirements and specifications.   Abstracted metrics and test methods will be developed to measure mobile robot performance and safety in areas that are identified by the stakeholders as being crucial.  Examples include how well a mobile robot navigates in structured and unstructured environments, how accurately it can position itself (and an onboard arm and gripper) with respect to a target workpiece, how it deals with loss or degradation of communication to a central controller, how much an exoskeleton improves human endurance, and how robot arms and mobile bases should coordinate to safely respond to objects in their path.

Research Plan

The research plan entails development of metrics, test methods, artifacts, and datasets that measure the performance and safety characteristics of mobile robots within manufacturing environments.   A unified perspective for development of measurement science for vehicles, mobile manipulators, and wearable robots will result in a comprehensive and efficient technical approach. Draft testing methodologies, test artifact designs, and experimental results will be submitted to the appropriate consensus standards organizations for further development and balloting.  The project will develop concepts for characterizing the levels of intelligence and autonomy-based capabilities for mobile vehicles as guidance for the research and user community and as input to standards roadmaps.

On the performance front, this project will:

  • Create test methods that evaluate traversal performance within an environment with specified conditions, such as width of passageways, type of ground surfaces, obstacles (static and dynamic), lighting, temperature, etc. will be applied to A-UGVs, mobile manipulators, and human-worn exoskeletons.  
  • Define performance characteristics and test methods for mobile systems interacting with workpieces and the environment, such as docking, manipulation, and assembly operations.
  • Develop tools and artifacts to assess ability of mobile systems to localize themselves with respect to workpieces and the environment.
  •  Develop evaluation methods for mobile manipulators and exoskeletons in performing manufacturing-inspired operations while in motion.
  • Develop evaluation methods for the performance of wireless communication systems for A-UGV and mobile manipulators.
  • Develop concepts and conduct experiments for evaluating situational awareness and onboard decision-making capabilities of mobile robots.
  • Develop test methods and conduct experiments with human subjects for wearable robot performance, covering both passive and active exoskeletons and exosuits.

On the mobile robot safety front, this project will:

  • Draft unified safe operation guidance for mobile manipulators that addresses conflicts and gaps in current safety standards for arms versus mobile robots.
  • Provide technical guidance and experimental data for advancements in A-UGV safety standards.
  • Develop concepts for measuring ergonomic impacts of passive and active exoskeletons and exosuits and conduct experiments.
Created December 11, 2018, Updated February 3, 2021