Confidence-aware motion prediction for real-time collision avoidance1

David Fridovich-Keil, Andrea Bajcsy, Jaime F. Fisac, Sylvia L. Herbert, Steven Wang, Anca D. Dragan, Claire J. Tomlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


One of the most difficult challenges in robot motion planning is to account for the behavior of other moving agents, such as humans. Commonly, practitioners employ predictive models to reason about where other agents are going to move. Though there has been much recent work in building predictive models, no model is ever perfect: an agent can always move unexpectedly, in a way that is not predicted or not assigned sufficient probability. In such cases, the robot may plan trajectories that appear safe but, in fact, lead to collision. Rather than trust a model’s predictions blindly, we propose that the robot should use the model’s current predictive accuracy to inform the degree of confidence in its future predictions. This model confidence inference allows us to generate probabilistic motion predictions that exploit modeled structure when the structure successfully explains human motion, and degrade gracefully whenever the human moves unexpectedly. We accomplish this by maintaining a Bayesian belief over a single parameter that governs the variance of our human motion model. We couple this prediction algorithm with a recently proposed robust motion planner and controller to guide the construction of robot trajectories that are, to a good approximation, collision-free with a high, user-specified probability. We provide extensive analysis of the combined approach and its overall safety properties by establishing a connection to reachability analysis, and conclude with a hardware demonstration in which a small quadcopter operates safely in the same space as a human pedestrian.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-265
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Robotics Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Motion planning
  • human motion prediction
  • robust control
  • safety


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