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Risk-Aware Off-Road Navigation via a Learned Speed Distribution Map

by   Xiaoyi Cai, et al.

Motion planning in off-road environments requires reasoning about both the geometry and semantics of the scene (e.g., a robot may be able to drive through soft bushes but not a fallen log). In many recent works, the world is classified into a finite number of semantic categories that often are not sufficient to capture the ability (i.e., the speed) with which a robot can traverse off-road terrain. Instead, this work proposes a new representation of traversability based exclusively on robot speed that can be learned from data, offers interpretability and intuitive tuning, and can be easily integrated with a variety of planning paradigms in the form of a costmap. Specifically, given a dataset of experienced trajectories, the proposed algorithm learns to predict a distribution of speeds the robot could achieve, conditioned on the environment semantics and commanded speed. The learned speed distribution map is converted into costmaps with a risk-aware cost term based on conditional value at risk (CVaR). Numerical simulations demonstrate that the proposed risk-aware planning algorithm leads to faster average time-to-goals compared to a method that only considers expected behavior, and the planner can be tuned for slightly slower, but less variable behavior. Furthermore, the approach is integrated into a full autonomy stack and demonstrated in a high-fidelity Unity environment and is shown to provide a 30% improvement in the success rate of navigation.


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