Going further

Cartographer is not only a great SLAM algorithm, it also comes with a fully-featured implementation that brings lots of “extra” features. This page lists some of those less known functionalities.

More input

If you have a source of odometry (such as a wheel encoder) publishing on a nav_msgs/Odometry topic and want to use it to improve Cartographer’s localization, you can add an input to your .lua configuration files:

use_odometry = true

The messages will be expected on the odom topic.

A GPS publishing on a sensor_msgs/NavSatFix topic named fix can improve the global SLAM:

use_nav_sat = true

For landmarks publishing on a cartographer_ros_msgs/LandmarkList (message defined in cartographer_ros) topic named landmark:

use_landmarks = true

Localization only

If you have a map you are happy with and want to reduce computations, you can use the localization-only mode of Cartographer which will run SLAM against the existing map and won’t build a new one. This is enabled by running cartographer_node with a -load_state_filename argument and by defining the following line in your lua config:

TRAJECTORY_BUILDER.pure_localization_trimmer = {
    max_submaps_to_keep = 3,

IMU Calibration

When performing the global optimization, Ceres tries to improve the pose between your IMU and range finding sensors. A well chosen acquisition with lots of loop closure constraints (for instance if your robot goes on a straight line and then back) can improve the quality of those corrections and become a reliable source of pose correction. You can then use Cartographer as part of your calibration process to improve the quality of your robot’s extrinsic calibration.

Multi-trajectories SLAM

Cartographer can perform SLAM from multiple robots emiting data in parallel. The global SLAM is able to detect shared paths and will merge the maps built by the different robots as soon as it becomes possible. This is achieved through the usage of two ROS services start_trajectory and finish_trajectory. (refer to the ROS API reference documentation for more details on their usage)

Cloud integration with gRPC

Cartographer is built around Protobuf messages which make it very flexible and interoperable. One of the advantages of that architecture is that it is easy to distribute on machines spread over the Internet. The typical use case would be a fleet of robots navigating on a known map, they could have their SLAM algorithm run on a remote powerful centralized localization server running a multi-trajectories Cartographer instance.

TODO: Instructions on how to get started with a gRPC Cartographer instance