General-purpose pre-trained models ("foundation models") have enabled practitioners to produce generalizable solutions for individual machine learning problems with datasets that are significantly smaller than those required for learning from scratch. Such models are typically trained on large and diverse datasets with weak supervision, consuming much more training data than is available for any individual downstream application. In this paper, we describe the Visual Navigation Transformer (ViNT), a foundation model that aims to bring the success of general-purpose pre-trained models to vision-based robotic navigation. ViNT is trained with a general goal-reaching objective that can be used with any navigation dataset, and employs a flexible Transformer-based architecture to learn navigational affordances and enable efficient adaptation to a variety of downstream navigational tasks. ViNT is trained on a number of existing navigation datasets, comprising hundreds of hours of robotic navigation from a variety of different robotic platforms, and exhibits positive transfer, outperforming specialist models trained on singular datasets. ViNT can be augmented with diffusion-based subgoal proposals to explore novel environments, and can solve kilometer-scale navigation problems when equipped with long-range heuristics. ViNT can also be adapted to novel task specifications with a technique inspired by prompt-tuning, where the goal encoder is replaced by an encoding of another task modality (e.g., GPS waypoints or routing commands) embedded into the same space of goal tokens. This flexibility and ability to accommodate a variety of downstream problem domains establishes ViNT as an effective foundation model for mobile robotics. For videos, code, and model checkpoints, see our project page at https://visualnav-transformer.github.io.
We present a system that enables an autonomous small-scale RC car to drive aggressively from visual observations using reinforcement learning (RL). Our system, FastRLAP (faster lap), trains autonomously in the real world, without human interventions, and without requiring any simulation or expert demonstrations. Our system integrates a number of important components to make this possible: we initialize the representations for the RL policy and value function from a large prior dataset of other robots navigating in other environments (at low speed), which provides a navigation-relevant representation. From here, a sample-efficient online RL method uses a single low-speed user-provided demonstration to determine the desired driving course, extracts a set of navigational checkpoints, and autonomously practices driving through these checkpoints, resetting automatically on collision or failure. Perhaps surprisingly, we find that with appropriate initialization and choice of algorithm, our system can learn to drive over a variety of racing courses with less than 20 minutes of online training. The resulting policies exhibit emergent aggressive driving skills, such as timing braking and acceleration around turns and avoiding areas which impede the robot's motion, approaching the performance of a human driver using a similar first-person interface over the course of training.
Environments with multi-agent interactions often result a rich set of modalities of behavior between agents due to the inherent suboptimality of decision making processes when agents settle for satisfactory decisions. However, existing algorithms for solving these dynamic games are strictly unimodal and fail to capture the intricate multimodal behaviors of the agents. In this paper, we propose MMELQGames (Multimodal Maximum-Entropy Linear Quadratic Games), a novel constrained multimodal maximum entropy formulation of the Differential Dynamic Programming algorithm for solving generalized Nash equilibria. By formulating the problem as a certain dynamic game with incomplete and asymmetric information where agents are uncertain about the cost and dynamics of the game itself, the proposed method is able to reason about multiple local generalized Nash equilibria, enforce constraints with the Augmented Lagrangian framework and also perform Bayesian inference on the latent mode from past observations. We assess the efficacy of the proposed algorithm on two illustrative examples: multi-agent collision avoidance and autonomous racing. In particular, we show that only MMELQGames is able to effectively block a rear vehicle when given a speed disadvantage and the rear vehicle can overtake from multiple positions.
We present an algorithm, based on the Differential Dynamic Programming framework, to handle trajectory optimization problems in which the horizon is determined online rather than fixed a priori. This algorithm exhibits exact one-step convergence for linear, quadratic, time-invariant problems and is fast enough for real-time nonlinear model-predictive control. We show derivations for the nonlinear algorithm in the discrete-time case, and apply this algorithm to a variety of nonlinear problems. Finally, we show the efficacy of the optimal-horizon model-predictive control scheme compared to a standard MPC controller, on an obstacle-avoidance problem with planar robots.
Certified safe control is a growing challenge in robotics, especially when performance and safety objectives are desired to be concurrently achieved. In this work, we extend the barrier state (BaS) concept, recently proposed for stabilization of continuous time systems, to enforce safety for discrete time systems by creating a discrete barrier state (DBaS). The constructed DBaS is embedded into the discrete model of the safety-critical system in order to integrate safety objectives into performance objectives. We subsequently use the proposed technique to implement a safety embedded stabilizing control for nonlinear discrete systems. Furthermore, we employ the DBaS method to develop a safety embedded differential dynamic programming (DDP) technique to plan and execute safe optimal trajectories. The proposed algorithm is leveraged on a differential wheeled robot and on a quadrotor to safely perform several tasks including reaching, tracking and safe multi-quadrotor movement. The DBaS-based DDP (DBaS-DDP) is compared to the penalty method used in constrained DDP problems where it is shown that the DBaS-DDP consistently outperforms the penalty method.