Algorithms for navigation

The navigation task is to reach a prescribed goal, even though no environment map is given. It is assumed that the goal is expressed in coordinates relative to the robot's initial position and orientation (these are odometric coordinates). If the goal can only be identified when the robot is on the goal tile, then searching is required, which is covered next. As seen in Example 12.5, the robot is not required to learn the whole environment to solve a navigation problem. The search algorithms of Section 2.2 may be applied. For example, the $ A^*$ method will find the optimal route to the goal, and a reasonable heuristic underestimate of the cost-to-go can be defined by assuming that all tiles are empty. Although such a method will work, the reroute costs are not being taken into account. Thus, the optimal path eventually computed by $ A^*$ may be meaningless unless other robots will later use this information to reach the same goal in the same environment. For the unfortunate robot that went first, a substantial amount of exploration steps might have been wasted because $ A^*$ is not designed for exploration during execution. Even though the search algorithms in Section 2.2 assumed that the search graph was gradually revealed during execution, as opposed to being given in advance, they allow the current state in the search to jump around arbitrarily. In the current setting, this would require teleporting the robot to different parts of the environment. Section 12.3.2 covers a navigation algorithm that extends Dijkstra's algorithm to work correctly when the costs are discovered during execution. It can be nicely applied to the grid-based navigation problem presented in this section, even when the environment is initially unknown.

Steven M LaValle 2012-04-20