Aerospace Controls Laboratory

Risk-Aware Off-Road Navigation Leveraging Semantics

Xiaoyi (Jeremy) Cai, Michael Everett


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.

Pipeline for generating risk-aware speed map from semantic input and commanded speeds.

Image illustrating the training environment and test environment in Unity simulator.

This research is funded by ARL SARA.

Related Publications

  • Cai, X., Everett, M., Fink, J., and How, J. P., “Risk-aware off-road navigation via a learned speed distribution map,” 2022 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE, 2022, pp. 2931–2937.