Analysis of Underactuated Dynamic Locomotion Systems Using Perturbation Expansion: The Twistcar Toy Example

Ofir Chakon, Yizhar Or

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Underactuated robotic locomotion systems are commonly represented by nonholonomic constraints where in mixed systems, these constraints are also combined with momentum evolution equations. Such systems have been analyzed in the literature by exploiting symmetries and utilizing advanced geometric methods. These works typically assume that the shape variables are directly controlled, and obtain the system’s solutions only via numerical integration. In this work, we demonstrate utilization of the perturbation expansion method for analyzing a model example of mixed locomotion system—the twistcar toy vehicle, which is a variant of the well-studied roller-racer model. The system is investigated by assuming small-amplitude oscillatory inputs of either steering angle (kinematic) or steering torque (mechanical), and explicit expansions for the system’s solutions under both types of actuation are obtained. These expressions enable analyzing the dependence of the system’s dynamic behavior on the vehicle’s structural parameters and actuation type. In particular, we study the reversal in direction of motion under steering angle oscillations about the unfolded configuration, as well as influence of the choice of actuation type on convergence properties of the motion. Some of the findings are demonstrated qualitatively by reporting preliminary motion experiments with a modular robotic prototype of the vehicle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215-1234
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Nonlinear Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Asymptotic analysis
  • Nonholonomic constraints
  • Robotic locomotion
  • Underactuated systems

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Engineering(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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