X*: Anytime Multi-Agent Path Finding for Sparse Domains using Window-Based Iterative Repairs

Kyle Vedder, Joydeep Biswas

Real-world multi-agent systems such as warehouse robots operate under significant time constraints -- in such settings, rather than spend time solving for optimal paths, it is instead preferable to find valid collision-free paths quickly, even if suboptimal, and given additional time, to iteratively refine such paths to improve their cost. In such domains, we observe that agent-agent collisions are sparse -- they involve small local subsets of agents, and are geographically contained within a small region of the overall space. Leveraging this insight, we can first plan paths for each agent individually, and in the cases of collisions between agents, perform small local repairs limited to local subspace windows. As time permits, these windows can be successively grown and the repairs within them refined, thereby improving the path quality, and eventually converging to the global joint optimal solution. % Using these insights, we present two algorithmic contributions: 1) a Windowed Anytime Multiagent Planning Framework (WAMPF) for a class of anytime planners that quickly generates valid paths with suboptimality estimates and generates optimal paths given sufficient time, and 2) X*, an efficient WAMPF-based planner. X* is able to efficiently find successive valid solutions by employing re-use techniques during the repair growth step of WAMPF. Experimentally, we demonstrate that in sparse domains: 1) X* outperforms state-of-the-art anytime or optimal MAPF solvers in time to valid path, 2) X* is competitive with state-of-the-art anytime or optimal MAPF solvers in time to optimal path, 3) X* quickly converges to very tight suboptimality bounds, and 4) X* is competitive with state-of-the-art suboptimal MAPF solvers in time to valid path for small numbers of agents while providing much higher quality paths.

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