Neural network vehicle models for high-performance automated driving

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Science Robotics  27 Mar 2019:
Vol. 4, Issue 28, eaaw1975
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aaw1975


Automated vehicles navigate through their environment by first planning and subsequently following a safe trajectory. To prove safer than human beings, they must ultimately perform these tasks as well or better than human drivers across a broad range of conditions and in critical situations. We show that a feedforward-feedback control structure incorporating a simple physics-based model can be used to track a path up to the friction limits of the vehicle with performance comparable with a champion amateur race car driver. The key is having the appropriate model. Although physics-based models are useful in their transparency and intuition, they require explicit characterization around a single operating point and fail to make use of the wealth of vehicle data generated by autonomous vehicles. To circumvent these limitations, we propose a neural network structure using a sequence of past states and inputs motivated by the physical model. The neural network achieved better performance than the physical model when implemented in the same feedforward-feedback control architecture on an experimental vehicle. More notably, when trained on a combination of data from dry roads and snow, the model was able to make appropriate predictions for the road surface on which the vehicle was traveling without the need for explicit road friction estimation. These findings suggest that the network structure merits further investigation as the basis for model-based control of automated vehicles over their full operating range.

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