Obstacle Avoidance through Reinforcement Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 4 (NIPS 1991)

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Tony Prescott, John Mayhew


A method is described for generating plan-like. reflexive. obstacle avoidance behaviour in a mobile robot. The experiments reported here use a simulated vehicle with a primitive range sensor. Avoidance behaviour is encoded as a set of continuous functions of the perceptual input space. These functions are stored using CMACs and trained by a variant of Barto and Sutton's adaptive critic algorithm. As the vehicle explores its surroundings it adapts its responses to sensory stimuli so as to minimise the negative reinforcement arising from collisions. Strategies for local navigation are therefore acquired in an explicitly goal-driven fashion. The resulting trajectories form elegant collision(cid:173) free paths through the environment