Robots are increasingly expected to go beyond controlled environments in laboratories and factories, to act autonomously in real-world workplaces and public spaces. Autonomous robots navigating the realworld have to contend with a great deal of uncertainty, which poses additional challenges. Uncertainty in the real world accrues from several sources. Some of it may originate from imperfect internal models of reality. Other uncertainty is inherent, a direct side effect of partial observability induced by sensor limitations and occlusions.
Regardless of the source, the resulting decision problem is unfortunately computationally intractable under uncertainty. This poses a great challenge as the real world is also dynamic. It will not pause while the robot computes a solution. Autonomous robots navigating among people, for example in traffic, need to be able to make split-second decisions. Uncertainty is therefore often neglected in practice, with potentially catastrophic consequences when something unexpected happens.
The aim of this thesis is to leverage recent advances in machine learning to compute safe real-time approximations to decision-making under uncertainty for realworld robots. We explore a range of methods, from probabilistic to deep learning, as well as different combinations with optimization-based methods from robotics, planning and control. Driven by applications in robot navigation, and grounded in experiments with real autonomous quadcopters, we address several parts of this problem. From reducing uncertainty by learning better models, to directly approximating the decision problem itself, all the while attempting to satisfy both the safety and real-time requirements of real-world autonomy.
This work has been supported by the Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF) project Symbicloud and the ELLIIT Excellence Center at Linköping-Lund for Information Technology, in addition to those sources already acknowledged in the individual papers.