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Visual Prediction of Rover Slip: Learning Algorithms and Field Experiments

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Doctoral thesis

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Perception of the surrounding environment is an essential tool for intelligent navigation in any autonomous vehicle. In the context of Mars exploration, there is a strong motivation to enhance the perception of the rovers beyond geometry-based obstacle avoidance, so as to be able to predict potential interactions with the terrain. In this thesis we propose to remotely predict the amount of slip, which reflects the mobility of the vehicle on future terrain. The method is based on learning from experience and uses visual information from stereo imagery as input. We test the algorithm on several robot platforms and in different terrains. We also demonstrate its usefulness in an integrated system, onboard a Mars prototype rover in the JPL Mars Yard. Another desirable capability for an autonomous robot is to be able to learn about its interactions with the environment in a fully automatic fashion. We propose an algorithm which uses the robots sensors as supervision for vision-based learning of different terrain types. This algorithm can work with noisy and ambiguous signals provided from onboard sensors. To be able to cope with rich, high-dimensional visual representations we propose a novel, nonlinear dimensionality reduction technique which exploits automatic supervision. The method is the first to consider supervised nonlinear dimensionality reduction in a probabilistic framework using supervision which can be noisy or ambiguous. Finally, we consider the problem of learning to recognize different terrains, which addresses the time constraints of an onboard autonomous system. We propose a method which automatically learns a variable-length feature representation depending on the complexity of the classiffication task. The proposed approach achieves a good trade-off between decrease in computational time and recognition performance.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Numerical Mathematics
  • Operations Research
  • Test Facilities, Equipment and Methods

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