In this paper we argue that machine consciousness can be successfully modelled to be the base of a control system for an autonomous mobile robot. Such a bio-inspired system provides the robot with cognitive benefits the same way that consciousness does for humans and other higher mammals. The key functions of consciousness are identified and partially applied to an original computational model, which is implemented in a software simulated mobile robot. We use a simulator to prove our assumptions and gain insight about the benefits that conscious and affective functions add to the behaviour of the robot. A particular exploration problem is analyzed and experiments results are evaluated. We conclude that this cognitive approach involving consciousness and emotion functions cannot be ignored in the design of mobile robots, as it provides efficiency and robustness in autonomous tasks. Specifically, the proposed model has revealed efficient control behaviour when dealing with unexpected situations.