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  1. This paper considers the problem of fast and safe autonomous navigation in partially known environments. Our main contribution is a control policy design based on ellipsoidal trajectory bounds obtained from a quadratic state-dependent distance metric. The ellipsoidal bounds are used to embed directional preference in the control design, leading to system behavior that is adapted to local environment geometry, carefully considering medial obstacles while paying less attention to lateral ones. We use a virtual reference governor system to adaptively follow a desired navigation path, slowing down when system safety may be violated and speeding up otherwise. The resulting controller is able to navigate complex environments faster than common Euclidean-norm and Lyapunov-function-based designs, while retaining stability and collision avoidance guarantees. 
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  2. This paper focuses on inverse reinforcement learning (IRL) for autonomous robot navigation using semantic observations. The objective is to infer a cost function that explains demonstrated behavior while relying only on the expert’s observations and state-control trajectory. We develop a map encoder, which infers semantic class probabilities from the observation sequence, and a cost encoder, defined as deep neural network over the semantic features. Since the expert cost is not directly observable, the representation parameters can only be optimized by differentiating the error between demonstrated controls and a control policy computed from the cost estimate. The error is optimized using a closed-form subgradient computed only over a subset of promising states via a motion planning algorithm. We show that our approach learns to follow traffic rules in the autonomous driving CARLA simulator by relying on semantic observations of cars, sidewalks and road lanes. 
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  3. This paper focuses on inverse reinforcement learning (IRL) to enable safe and efficient autonomous navigation in unknown partially observable environments. The objective is to infer a cost function that explains expert-demonstrated navigation behavior while relying only on the observations and state-control trajectory used by the expert. We develop a cost function representation composed of two parts: a probabilistic occupancy encoder, with recurrent dependence on the observation sequence, and a cost encoder, defined over the occupancy features. The representation parameters are optimized by differentiating the error between demonstrated controls and a control policy computed from the cost encoder. Such differentiation is typically computed by dynamic programming through the value function over the whole state space. We observe that this is inefficient in large partially observable environments because most states are unexplored. Instead, we rely on a closed-form subgradient of the cost-to-go obtained only over a subset of promising states via an efficient motion-planning algorithm such as A* or RRT. Our experiments show that our model exceeds the accuracy of baseline IRL algorithms in robot navigation tasks, while substantially improving the efficiency of training and test-time inference. 
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