Real-Time Optimal Trajectory Planning for Autonomous Vehicles and Lap Time Simulation Using Machine Learning

3 Feb 2021  ·  Sam Garlick, Andrew Bradley ·

Widespread development of driverless vehicles has led to the formation of autonomous racing, where technological development is accelerated by the high speeds and competitive environment of motorsport. A particular challenge for an autonomous vehicle is that of identifying a target trajectory - or, in the case of a competition vehicle, the racing line. Many existing approaches to finding the racing line are either not time-optimal solutions, or are computationally expensive - rendering them unsuitable for real-time application using on-board processing hardware. This study describes a machine learning approach to generating an accurate prediction of the racing line in real-time on desktop processing hardware. The proposed algorithm is a feed-forward neural network, trained using a dataset comprising racing lines for a large number of circuits calculated via traditional optimal control lap time simulation. The network predicts the racing line with a mean absolute error of +/-0.27m, and just +/-0.11m at corner apex - comparable to human drivers, and autonomous vehicle control subsystems. The approach generates predictions within 33ms, making it over 9,000 times faster than traditional methods of finding the optimal trajectory. Results suggest that for certain applications data-driven approaches to find near-optimal racing lines may be favourable to traditional computational methods.

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