Safe path planning for obstacle avoidance in autonomous vehicles has been developed. Based on the Rapidly Exploring Random Trees (RRT) algorithm, an improved algorithm integrating path pruning, smoothing, and optimization with geometric collision detection is shown to improve planning efficiency. Path pruning, a prerequisite to path smoothing, is performed to remove the redundant points generated by the random trees for a new path, without colliding with the obstacles. Path smoothing is performed to modify the path so that it becomes continuously differentiable with curvature implementable by the vehicle. Optimization is performed to select a “near”-optimal path of the shortest distance among the feasible paths for motion efficiency. In the experimental verification, both a pure pursuit steering controller and a proportional–integral speed controller are applied to keep an autonomous vehicle tracking the planned path predicted by the improved RRT algorithm. It is shown that the vehicle can successfully track the path efficiently and reach the destination safely, with an average tracking control deviation of 5.2% of the vehicle width. The path planning is also applied to lane changes, and the average deviation from the lane during and after lane changes remains within 8.3% of the vehicle width.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes