Accelerating Motion Planning via Optimal Transport

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


An T. Le, Georgia Chalvatzaki, Armin Biess, Jan R. Peters


Motion planning is still an open problem for many disciplines, e.g., robotics, autonomous driving, due to their need for high computational resources that hinder real-time, efficient decision-making. A class of methods striving to provide smooth solutions is gradient-based trajectory optimization. However, those methods usually suffer from bad local minima, while for many settings, they may be inapplicable due to the absence of easy-to-access gradients of the optimization objectives. In response to these issues, we introduce Motion Planning via Optimal Transport (MPOT)---a \textit{gradient-free} method that optimizes a batch of smooth trajectories over highly nonlinear costs, even for high-dimensional tasks, while imposing smoothness through a Gaussian Process dynamics prior via the planning-as-inference perspective. To facilitate batch trajectory optimization, we introduce an original zero-order and highly-parallelizable update rule----the Sinkhorn Step, which uses the regular polytope family for its search directions. Each regular polytope, centered on trajectory waypoints, serves as a local cost-probing neighborhood, acting as a \textit{trust region} where the Sinkhorn Step ``transports'' local waypoints toward low-cost regions. We theoretically show that Sinkhorn Step guides the optimizing parameters toward local minima regions of non-convex objective functions. We then show the efficiency of MPOT in a range of problems from low-dimensional point-mass navigation to high-dimensional whole-body robot motion planning, evincing its superiority compared to popular motion planners, paving the way for new applications of optimal transport in motion planning.