A nonlinear optimal control method is developed for autonomous truck and trailer systems. Actually, two cases are distinguished: (a) a truck and trailer system that is steered by the front wheels of its truck, (b) an autonomous fire-truck robot that is steered by both the front wheels of its truck and by the rear wheels of its trailer. The kinematic model of the autonomous vehicles undergoes linearization through Taylor series expansion. The linearization is computed at a temporary operating point that is defined at each time instant by the present value of the state vector and the last value of the control inputs vector. The linearization is based on the computation of Jacobian matrices. The modeling error due to approximate linearization is considered to be a perturbation that is compensated by the robustness of the control scheme. For the approximately linearized model of the autonomous vehicles an H-infinity feedback controller is designed. This requires the solution of an algebraic Riccati equation at each iteration of the control algorithm. The stability of the control loop is confirmed through Lyapunov analysis. It is shown that the control loop exhibits the H-infinity tracking performance which implies elevated robustness against modeling errors and external disturbances. Moreover, under moderate conditions the global asymptotic stability of the control loop is proven. Finally, to implement state estimation-based control for the autonomous vehicles, through the processing of a small number of sensor measurements, the H-infinity Kalman Filter is proposed.
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