Extending Structural Causal Models for Use in Autonomous Embodied Systems

3 Jun 2024  ·  Rhys Howard, Lars Kunze ·

Much work has been done to develop causal reasoning techniques across a number of domains, however the utilisation of causality within autonomous systems is still in its infancy. Autonomous systems would greatly benefit from the integration of causality through the use of representations such as structural causal models (SCMs). The system would be afforded a higher level of transparency, it would enable post-hoc explanations of outcomes, and assist in the online inference of exogenous variables. These qualities are either directly beneficial to the autonomous system or a valuable step in building public trust and informing regulation. To such an end we present a case study in which we describe a module-based autonomous driving system comprised of SCMs. Approaching this task requires considerations of a number of challenges when dealing with a system of great complexity and size, that must operate for extended periods of time by itself. Here we describe these challenges, and present solutions. The first of these is SCM contexts, with the remainder being three new variable categories -- two of which are based upon functional programming monads. Finally, we conclude by presenting an example application of the causal capabilities of the autonomous driving system. In this example, we aim to attribute culpability between vehicular agents in a hypothetical road collision incident.

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