Our paper on off-road autonomous rally driving, which leverages terrain-aware dynamics, has been accepted for publication in RA-L 2023. This work includes an in-depth exploration of the design decisions behind building terrain-aware robot dynamics and intriguing simulation experiments! This work will also be presented in ICRA 2024.
Abstract: High-speed autonomous driving in off-road environments has immense potential for various applications, but it also presents challenges due to the complexity of vehicle-terrain interactions. In such environments, it is crucial for the vehicle to predict its motion and adjust its controls proactively in response to environmental changes, such as variations in terrain elevation. To this end, we propose a method for learning terrain-aware kinodynamic model which is conditioned on both proprioceptive and exteroceptive information. The proposed model generates reliable predictions of 6-degree-of-freedom motion and can even estimate contact interactions without requiring ground truth force data during training. This enables the design of a safe and robust model predictive controller through appropriate cost function design which penalizes sampled trajectories with unstable motion, unsafe interactions, and high levels of uncertainty derived from the model. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach through experiments on a simulated off-road track, showing that our proposed model-controller pair outperforms the baseline and ensures robust high-speed driving performance without control failure.