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  1. Cable driven parallel robots (CDPRs) are often challenging to model and to dynamically control due to the inherent flexibility and elasticity of the cables. The additional inclusion of online geometric reconfigurability to a CDPR results in a complex underdetermined system with highly non-linear dynamics. The necessary (numerical) redundancy resolution requires multiple layers of optimization rendering its application computationally prohibitive for real-time control. Here, deep reinforcement learning approaches can offer a model-free framework to overcome these challenges and can provide a real-time capable dynamic control. This study discusses three settings for a model-free DRL implementation in dynamic trajectory tracking: (i) for a standard non-redundant CDPR with a fixed workspace; (ii) in an end-to-end setting with redundancy resolution on a reconfigurable CDPR; and (iii) in a decoupled approach resolving kinematic and actuation redundancies individually. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 29, 2024
  2. Prototyping and validating hardware–software components, sub-systems and systems within the intelligent transportation system-of-systems framework requires a modular yet flexible and open-access ecosystem. This work presents our attempt to develop such a comprehensive research and education ecosystem, called AutoDRIVE, for synergistically prototyping, simulating and deploying cyber-physical solutions pertaining to autonomous driving as well as smart city management. AutoDRIVE features both software as well as hardware-in-the-loop testing interfaces with openly accessible scaled vehicle and infrastructure components. The ecosystem is compatible with a variety of development frameworks, and supports both single- and multi-agent paradigms through local as well as distributed computing. Most critically, AutoDRIVE is intended to be modularly expandable to explore emergent technologies, and this work highlights various complementary features and capabilities of the proposed ecosystem by demonstrating four such deployment use-cases: (i) autonomous parking using probabilistic robotics approach for mapping, localization, path-planning and control; (ii) behavioral cloning using computer vision and deep imitation learning; (iii) intersection traversal using vehicle-to-vehicle communication and deep reinforcement learning; and (iv) smart city management using vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and internet-of-things. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  3. The addition of geometric reconfigurability in a cable driven parallel robot (CDPR) introduces kinematic redundancies which can be exploited for manipulating structural and mechanical properties of the robot through redundancy resolution. In the event of a cable failure, a reconfigurable CDPR (rCDPR) can also realign its geometric arrangement to overcome the effects of cable failure and recover the original expected trajectory and complete the trajectory tracking task. In this paper we discuss a fault tolerant control (FTC) framework that relies on an Interactive Multiple Model (IMM) adaptive estimation filter for simultaneous fault detection and diagnosis (FDD) and task recovery. The redundancy resolution scheme for the kinematically redundant CDPR takes into account singularity avoidance, manipulability and wrench quality maximization during trajectory tracking. We further introduce a trajectory tracking methodology that enables the automatic task recovery algorithm to consistently return to the point of failure. This is particularly useful for applications where the planned trajectory is of greater importance than the goal positions, such as painting, welding or 3D printing applications. The proposed control framework is validated in simulation on a planar rCDPR with elastic cables and parameter uncertainties to introduce modeled and unmodeled dynamics in the system as it tracks a complete trajectory despite the occurrence of multiple cable failures. As cables fail one by one, the robot topology changes from an over-constrained to a fully constrained and then an under-constrained CDPR. The framework is applied with a constant-velocity kinematic feedforward controller which has the advantage of generating steady-state inputs despite dynamic oscillations during cable failures, as well as a Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR) feedback controller to locally dampen these oscillations. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 17, 2024
  4. Abstract Mobile manipulators that combine base mobility with the dexterity of an articulated manipulator have gained popularity in numerous applications ranging from manufacturing and infrastructure inspection to domestic service. Deployments span a range of interaction tasks with the operational environment comprising minimal interaction tasks such as inspection and complex interaction tasks such as logistics resupply and assembly. This flexibility, offered by the redundancy, needs to be carefully orchestrated to realize enhanced performance. Thus, advanced decision-support methodologies and frameworks are crucial for successful mobile manipulation in (semi-) autonomous and teleoperation contexts. Given the enormous scope of the literature, we restrict our attention to decision-support frameworks specifically in the context of wheeled mobile manipulation. Hence, here, we present a classification of wheeled mobile manipulation literature while accounting for its diversity. The intertwining of the deployment tasks, application arenas, and decision-making methodologies are discussed with an eye for future avenues for research. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  5. Safe operations of autonomous mobile robots in close proximity to humans, creates a need for enhanced trajectory tracking (with low tracking errors). Linear optimal control techniques such as Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR) and Model Predictive Control (MPC) have been used successfully for low-speed applications while leveraging their model-based methodology with manageable computational demands. However, model and parameter uncertainties or other unmodeled nonlinearities may cause poor control actions and constraint violations. Nonlinear MPC has emerged as an alternate optimal-control approach but needs to overcome real-time deployment challenges (including fast sampling time, design complexity, and limited computational resources). In recent years, the optimal control-based deployments have benefitted enormously from the ability of Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) to serve as universal function approximators. This has led to deployments in a plethora of previously inaccessible applications – but many aspects of generalizability, benchmarking, and systematic verification and validation coupled with benchmarking have emerged. This paper presents a novel approach to fusing Deep Reinforcement Learning-based (DRL) longitudinal control with a traditional PID lateral controller for autonomous navigation. Our approach follows (i) Generation of an adequate fidelity simulation scenario via a Real2Sim approach; (ii) training a DRL agent within this framework; (iii) Testing the performance and generalizability on alternate scenarios. We use an initial tuned set of the lateral PID controller gains for observing the vehicle response over a range of velocities. Then we use a DRL framework to generate policies for an optimal longitudinal controller that successfully complements the lateral PID to give the best tracking performance for the vehicle. 
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  6. The rising popularity of self-driving cars has led to the emergence of a new research field in the recent years: Autonomous racing. Researchers are developing software and hardware for high performance race vehicles which aim to operate autonomously on the edge of the vehicles limits: High speeds, high accelerations, low reaction times, highly uncertain, dynamic and adversarial environments. This paper represents the first holistic survey that covers the research in the field of autonomous racing. We focus on the field of autonomous racecars only and display the algorithms, methods and approaches that are used in the fields of perception, planning and control as well as end-to-end learning. Further, with an increasing number of autonomous racing competitions, researchers now have access to a range of high performance platforms to test and evaluate their autonomy algorithms. This survey presents a comprehensive overview of the current autonomous racing platforms emphasizing both the software-hardware co-evolution to the current stage. Finally, based on additional discussion with leading researchers in the field we conclude with a summary of open research challenges that will guide future researchers in this field. 
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