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  1. Simulation forms the backbone of modern self-driving development. Simulators help develop, test, and improve driving systems without putting humans, vehicles, or their environment at risk. However, simulators face a major challenge: They rely on realistic, scalable, yet interesting content. While recent advances in rendering and scene reconstruction make great strides in creating static scene assets, modeling their layout, dynamics, and behaviors remains challenging. In this work, we turn to language as a source of supervision for dynamic traffic scene generation. Our model, LCTGen, combines a large language model with a transformer-based decoder architecture that selects likely map locations from a dataset of maps, and produces an initial traffic distribution, as well as the dynamics of each vehicle. LCTGen outperforms prior work in both unconditional and conditional traffic scene generation in terms of realism and fidelity. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 9, 2024
  2. Consider deploying a team of robots in order to visit sites in a risky environment (i.e., where a robot might be lost during a traversal), subject to team-based operational constraints such as limits on team composition, traffic throughputs, and launch constraints. We formalize this problem using a graph to represent the environment, enforcing probabilistic survival constraints for each robot, and using a matroid (which generalizes linear independence to sets) to capture the team-based operational constraints. The resulting “Matroid Team Surviving Orienteers” (MTSO) problem has broad applications for robotics such as informative path planning, resource delivery, and search and rescue. We demonstrate that the objective for the MTSO problem has submodular structure, which leads us to develop two polynomial time algorithms which are guaranteed to find a solution with value within a constant factor of the optimum. The second of our algorithms is an extension of the accelerated continuous greedy algorithm, and can be applied to much broader classes of constraints while maintaining bounds on suboptimality. In addition to in-depth analysis, we demonstrate the efficiency of our approaches by applying them to a scenario where a team of robots must gather information while avoiding dangers in the Coral Triangle and characterize scaling and parameter selection using a synthetic dataset.

     
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  3. Sequential Convex Programming (SCP) has recently gained significant popularity as an effective method for solving optimal control problems and has been successfully applied in several different domains. However, the theoretical analysis of SCP has received comparatively limited attention, and it is often restricted to discrete-time formulations. In this paper, we present a unifying theoretical analysis of a fairly general class of SCP procedures for continuous-time optimal control problems. In addition to the derivation of convergence guarantees in a continuous-time setting, our analysis reveals two new numerical and practical insights. First, we show how one can more easily account for manifold-type constraints, which are a defining feature of optimal control of mechanical systems. Second, we show how our theoretical analysis can be leveraged to accelerate SCP-based optimal control methods by infusing techniques from indirect optimal control. 
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  4. Robust motion planning entails computing a global motion plan that is safe under all possible uncertainty realizations, be it in the system dynamics, the robot’s initial position, or with respect to external disturbances. Current approaches for robust motion planning either lack theoretical guarantees, or make restrictive assumptions on the system dynamics and uncertainty distributions. In this paper, we address these limitations by proposing the robust rapidly-exploring random-tree (Robust-RRT) algorithm, which integrates forward reachability analysis directly into sampling-based control trajectory synthesis. We prove that Robust-RRT is probabilistically complete (PC) for nonlinear Lipschitz continuous dynamical systems with bounded uncertainty. In other words, Robust-RRT eventually finds a robust motion plan that is feasible under all possible uncertainty realizations assuming such a plan exists. Our analysis applies even to unstable systems that admit only short-horizon feasible plans; this is because we explicitly consider the time evolution of reachable sets along control trajectories. Thanks to the explicit consideration of time dependency in our analysis, PC applies to unstabilizable systems. To the best of our knowledge, this is the most general PC proof for robust sampling-based motion planning, in terms of the types of uncertainties and dynamical systems it can handle. Considering that an exact computation of reachable sets can be computationally expensive for some dynamical systems, we incorporate sampling-based reachability analysis into Robust-RRT and demonstrate our robust planner on nonlinear, underactuated, and hybrid systems. 
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  5. Autonomous Mobility-on-Demand (AMoD) systems represent an attractive alternative to existing transportation paradigms, currently challenged by urbanization and increasing travel needs. By centrally controlling a fleet of self-driving vehicles, these systems provide mobility service to customers and are currently starting to be deployed in a number of cities around the world. Current learning-based approaches for controlling AMoD systems are limited to the single-city scenario, whereby the service operator is allowed to take an unlimited amount of operational decisions within the same transportation system. However, real-world system operators can hardly afford to fully re-train AMoD controllers for every city they operate in, as this could result in a high number of poor-quality decisions during training, making the single-city strategy a potentially impractical solution. To address these limitations, we propose to formalize the multi-city AMoD problem through the lens of meta-reinforcement learning (meta-RL) and devise an actor-critic algorithm based on recurrent graph neural networks. In our approach, AMoD controllers are explicitly trained such that a small amount of experience within a new city will produce good system performance. Empirically, we show how control policies learned through meta-RL are able to achieve near-optimal performance on unseen cities by learning rapidly adaptable policies, thus making them more robust not only to novel environments, but also to distribution shifts common in real-world operations, such as special events, unexpected congestion, and dynamic pricing schemes. 
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  6. We propose a learning-based robust predictive control algorithm that compensates for significant uncertainty in the dynamics for a class of discrete-time systems that are nominally linear with an additive nonlinear component. Such systems commonly model the nonlinear effects of an unknown environment on a nominal system. We optimize over a class of nonlinear feedback policies inspired by certainty equivalent "estimate-and-cancel" control laws pioneered in classical adaptive control to achieve significant performance improvements in the presence of uncertainties of large magnitude, a setting in which existing learning-based predictive control algorithms often struggle to guarantee safety. In contrast to previous work in robust adaptive MPC, our approach allows us to take advantage of structure (i.e., the numerical predictions) in the a priori unknown dynamics learned online through function approximation. Our approach also extends typical nonlinear adaptive control methods to systems with state and input constraints even when we cannot directly cancel the additive uncertain function from the dynamics. Moreover, we apply contemporary statistical estimation techniques to certify the system’s safety through persistent constraint satisfaction with high probability. Finally, we show in simulation that our method can accommodate more significant unknown dynamics terms than existing methods. 
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  7. Challenged by urbanization and increasing travel needs, existing transportation systems need new mobility paradigms. In this article, we present the emerging concept of autonomous mobility-on-demand, whereby centrally orchestrated fleets of autonomous vehicles provide mobility service to customers. We provide a comprehensive review of methods and tools to model and solve problems related to autonomous mobility-on-demand systems. Specifically, we first identify problem settings for their analysis and control, from both operational and planning perspectives. We then review modeling aspects, including transportation networks, transportation demand, congestion, operational constraints, and interactions with existing infrastructure. Thereafter, we provide a systematic analysis of existing solution methods and performance metrics, highlighting trends and trade-offs. Finally, we present various directions for further research. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Control, Robotics, and Autonomous Systems, Volume 5 is May 2022. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates. 
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