Multimodal dynamics modeling for off-road autonomous vehicles

Jean-François Tremblay, Travis Manderson, Aurélio Noca, Gregory Dudek, David Meger

Dynamics modeling in outdoor and unstructured environments is difficult because different elements in the environment interact with the robot in ways that can be hard to predict. Leveraging multiple sensors to perceive maximal information about the robot's environment is thus crucial when building a model to perform predictions about the robot's dynamics with the goal of doing motion planning. We design a model capable of long-horizon motion predictions, leveraging vision, lidar and proprioception, which is robust to arbitrarily missing modalities at test time. We demonstrate in simulation that our model is able to leverage vision to predict traction changes. We then test our model using a real-world challenging dataset of a robot navigating through a forest, performing predictions in trajectories unseen during training. We try different modality combinations at test time and show that, while our model performs best when all modalities are present, it is still able to perform better than the baseline even when receiving only raw vision input and no proprioception, as well as when only receiving proprioception. Overall, our study demonstrates the importance of leveraging multiple sensors when doing dynamics modeling in outdoor conditions.

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