CAR-DESPOT: Causally-Informed Online POMDP Planning for Robots in Confounded Environments

13 Apr 2023  ·  Ricardo Cannizzaro, Lars Kunze ·

Robots operating in real-world environments must reason about possible outcomes of stochastic actions and make decisions based on partial observations of the true world state. A major challenge for making accurate and robust action predictions is the problem of confounding, which if left untreated can lead to prediction errors. The partially observable Markov decision process (POMDP) is a widely-used framework to model these stochastic and partially-observable decision-making problems. However, due to a lack of explicit causal semantics, POMDP planning methods are prone to confounding bias and thus in the presence of unobserved confounders may produce underperforming policies. This paper presents a novel causally-informed extension of "anytime regularized determinized sparse partially observable tree" (AR-DESPOT), a modern anytime online POMDP planner, using causal modelling and inference to eliminate errors caused by unmeasured confounder variables. We further propose a method to learn offline the partial parameterisation of the causal model for planning, from ground truth model data. We evaluate our methods on a toy problem with an unobserved confounder and show that the learned causal model is highly accurate, while our planning method is more robust to confounding and produces overall higher performing policies than AR-DESPOT.

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