Coastal Navigation with Mobile Robots

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 12 (NIPS 1999)

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Nicholas Roy, Sebastian Thrun


The problem that we address in this paper is how a mobile robot can plan in order to arrive at its goal with minimum uncertainty. Traditional motion planning algo(cid:173) rithms often assume that a mobile robot can track its position reliably, however, in real world situations, reliable localization may not always be feasible. Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (POMDPs) provide one way to maximize the certainty of reaching the goal state, but at the cost of computational intractability for large state spaces. The method we propose explicitly models the uncertainty of the robot's position as a state variable, and generates trajectories through the augmented pose-uncertainty space. By minimizing the positional uncertainty at the goal, the robot reduces the likelihood it becomes lost. We demonstrate experimentally that coastal navigation reduces the uncertainty at the goal, especially with degraded localization.