Automated creation of synthetic traffic scenarios is a key part of validating the safety of autonomous vehicles (AVs). In this paper, we propose Scenario Diffusion, a novel diffusion-based architecture for generating traffic scenarios that enables controllable scenario generation. We combine latent diffusion, object detection and trajectory regression to generate distributions of synthetic agent poses, orientations and trajectories simultaneously. To provide additional control over the generated scenario, this distribution is conditioned on a map and sets of tokens describing the desired scenario. We show that our approach has sufficient expressive capacity to model diverse traffic patterns and generalizes to different geographical regions.
Traversing terrain with good traction is crucial for achieving fast off-road navigation. Instead of manually designing costs based on terrain features, existing methods learn terrain properties directly from data via self-supervision, but challenges remain to properly quantify and mitigate risks due to uncertainties in learned models. This work efficiently quantifies both aleatoric and epistemic uncertainties by learning discrete traction distributions and probability densities of the traction predictor's latent features. Leveraging evidential deep learning, we parameterize Dirichlet distributions with the network outputs and propose a novel uncertainty-aware squared Earth Mover's distance loss with a closed-form expression that improves learning accuracy and navigation performance. The proposed risk-aware planner simulates state trajectories with the worst-case expected traction to handle aleatoric uncertainty, and penalizes trajectories moving through terrain with high epistemic uncertainty. Our approach is extensively validated in simulation and on wheeled and quadruped robots, showing improved navigation performance compared to methods that assume no slip, assume the expected traction, or optimize for the worst-case expected cost.
Control barrier functions (CBF) have become popular as a safety filter to guarantee the safety of nonlinear dynamical systems for arbitrary inputs. However, it is difficult to construct functions that satisfy the CBF constraints for high relative degree systems with input constraints. To address these challenges, recent work has explored learning CBFs using neural networks via neural CBF (NCBF). However, such methods face difficulties when scaling to higher dimensional systems under input constraints. In this work, we first identify challenges that NCBFs face during training. Next, to address these challenges, we propose policy neural CBF (PNCBF), a method of constructing CBFs by learning the value function of a nominal policy, and show that the value function of the maximum-over-time cost is a CBF. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method in simulation on a variety of systems ranging from toy linear systems to an F-16 jet with a 16-dimensional state space. Finally, we validate our approach on a two-agent quadcopter system on hardware under tight input constraints.
A flurry of recent work has demonstrated that pre-trained large language models (LLMs) can be effective task planners for a variety of single-robot tasks. The planning performance of LLMs is significantly improved via prompting techniques, such as in-context learning or re-prompting with state feedback, placing new importance on the token budget for the context window. An under-explored but natural next direction is to investigate LLMs as multi-robot task planners. However, long-horizon, heterogeneous multi-robot planning introduces new challenges of coordination while also pushing up against the limits of context window length. It is therefore critical to find token-efficient LLM planning frameworks that are also able to reason about the complexities of multi-robot coordination. In this work, we compare the task success rate and token efficiency of four multi-agent communication frameworks (centralized, decentralized, and two hybrid) as applied to four coordination-dependent multi-agent 2D task scenarios for increasing numbers of agents. We find that a hybrid framework achieves better task success rates across all four tasks and scales better to more agents. We further demonstrate the hybrid frameworks in 3D simulations where the vision-to-text problem and dynamical errors are considered. See our project website https://yongchao98.github.io/MIT-REALM-Multi-Robot/ for prompts, videos, and code.
For effective human-robot interaction, robots need to understand, plan, and execute complex, long-horizon tasks described by natural language. The recent and remarkable advances in large language models (LLMs) have shown promise for translating natural language into robot action sequences for complex tasks. However, many existing approaches either translate the natural language directly into robot trajectories, or factor the inference process by decomposing language into task sub-goals, then relying on a motion planner to execute each sub-goal. When complex environmental and temporal constraints are involved, inference over planning tasks must be performed jointly with motion plans using traditional task-and-motion planning (TAMP) algorithms, making such factorization untenable. Rather than using LLMs to directly plan task sub-goals, we instead perform few-shot translation from natural language task descriptions to an intermediary task representation that can then be consumed by a TAMP algorithm to jointly solve the task and motion plan. To improve translation, we automatically detect and correct both syntactic and semantic errors via autoregressive re-prompting, resulting in significant improvements in task completion. We show that our approach outperforms several methods using LLMs as planners in complex task domains.
In this paper, we investigate a scenario in which a robot learns a low-dimensional representation of a door given a video of the door opening or closing. This representation can be used to infer door-related parameters and predict the outcomes of interacting with the door. Current machine learning based approaches in the doors domain are based primarily on labelled datasets. However, the large quantity of available door data suggests the feasibility of a semisupervised approach based on pretraining. To exploit the hierarchical structure of the dataset where each door has multiple associated images, we pretrain with a structured latent variable model known as a neural statistician. The neural satsitician enforces separation between shared context-level variables (common across all images associated with the same door) and instance-level variables (unique to each individual image). We first demonstrate that the neural statistician is able to learn an embedding that enables reconstruction and sampling of realistic door images. Then, we evaluate the correspondence of the learned embeddings to human-interpretable parameters in a series of supervised inference tasks. It was found that a pretrained neural statistician encoder outperformed analogous context-free baselines when predicting door handedness, size, angle location, and configuration from door images. Finally, in a visual bandit door-opening task with a variety of door configuration, we found that neural statistician embeddings achieve lower regret than context-free baselines.
In the expeditionary sciences, spatiotemporally varying environments -- hydrothermal plumes, algal blooms, lava flows, or animal migrations -- are ubiquitous. Mobile robots are uniquely well-suited to study these dynamic, mesoscale natural environments. We formalize expeditionary science as a sequential decision-making problem, modeled using the language of partially-observable Markov decision processes (POMDPs). Solving the expeditionary science POMDP under real-world constraints requires efficient probabilistic modeling and decision-making in problems with complex dynamics and observational models. Previous work in informative path planning, adaptive sampling, and experimental design have shown compelling results, largely in static environments, using data-driven models and information-based rewards. However, these methodologies do not trivially extend to expeditionary science in spatiotemporal environments: they generally do not make use of scientific knowledge such as equations of state dynamics, they focus on information gathering as opposed to scientific task execution, and they make use of decision-making approaches that scale poorly to large, continuous problems with long planning horizons and real-time operational constraints. In this work, we discuss these and other challenges related to probabilistic modeling and decision-making in expeditionary science, and present some of our preliminary work that addresses these gaps. We ground our results in a real expeditionary science deployment of an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) in the deep ocean for hydrothermal vent discovery and characterization. Our concluding thoughts highlight remaining work to be done, and the challenges that merit consideration by the reinforcement learning and decision-making community.
We describe a task and motion planning architecture for highly dynamic systems that combines a domain-independent sampling-based deliberative planning algorithm with a global reactive planner. We leverage the recent development of a reactive, vector field planner that provides guarantees of reachability to large regions of the environment even in the face of unknown or unforeseen obstacles. The reachability guarantees can be formalized using contracts that allow a deliberative planner to reason purely in terms of those contracts and synthesize a plan by choosing a sequence of reactive behaviors and their target configurations, without evaluating specific motion plans between targets. This reduces both the search depth at which plans will be found, and the number of samples required to ensure a plan exists, while crucially preserving correctness guarantees. The result is reduced computational cost of synthesizing plans, and increased robustness of generated plans to actuator noise, model misspecification, or unknown obstacles. Simulation studies show that our hierarchical planning and execution architecture can solve complex navigation and rearrangement tasks, even when faced with narrow passageways or incomplete world information.