Ubuntu laptop terminal interface with hands operating keyboard, Duckiebot and duckies out of focus in foreground

“Self-Driving Cars with Duckietown” MOOC starting soon

Join the first hardware based MOOC about autonomy on edX!

Are you curious about robotics, self-driving cars, and want an opportunity to build and program your own? Set to start on March 22nd, “Self-Driving Cars with Duckietown” is a hands-on introduction to vehicle autonomy, and the first ever self-driving cars MOOC with a hardware track!

Designed for university-level students and professionals, this course is brought to you by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), in collaboration with the University of Montreal, the Duckietown Foundation, and the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago.

Learning autonomy requires a fundamentally different approach when compared to other computer science and engineering disciplines. Autonomy is inherently multi-disciplinary, and mastering it requires expertise in domains ranging from fundamental mathematics to practical machine-learning skills.

This course will explore the theory and implementation of model- and data-driven approaches for making a model self-driving car drive autonomously in an urban environment, while detecting and avoiding pedestrians (rubber duckies)!

In this course you will learn, hands-on, introductory elements of:

  • computer vision
  • robot operations 
  • ROS, Docker, Python, Ubuntu
  • autonomous behaviors
  • modelling and control
  • localization
  • planning
  • object detection and avoidance
  • reinforcement learning.

The Duckietown robotic ecosystem was created at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in 2016 and is now used in over 90 universities worldwide.

“The Duckietown educational platform provides a hands-on, scaled down, accessible version of real world autonomous systems.” said Emilio Frazzoli, Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control, ETH Zurich, “Integrating NVIDIA’s Jetson Nano power in Duckietown enables unprecedented access to state-of-the-art compute solutions for learning autonomy.”

This massive online open course will be have a hands-on learning approach using, for the hardware track, real robots. You will learn how autonomous vehicles make their own decisions, going from theory to implementation, deployment in simulation as well as on the new NVIDIA Jetson Nano powered Duckiebots.

“The new NVIDIA Jetson Nano 2GB is the ultimate starter AI computer for educators and students to teach and learn AI at an incredibly affordable price.” said Deepu Talla, Vice President and General Manager of Edge Computing at NVIDIA. “Duckietown and its edX MOOC are leveraging Jetson to take hands-on experimentation and understanding of AI and autonomous machines to the next level.”

The Duckiebot MOOC Founder’s edition kits are available worldwide, and thanks to OKdo, are now available with free shipping in the United States and in Asia!

“I’m thrilled that ETH, with UMontreal, the Duckietown Foundation, and the Toyota Technological Institute in Chicago, are collaborating to bring this course in self-driving cars and robotics to the 35 million learners on edX. This emerging technology has the potential to completely change the way we live and travel, and the course provides a unique opportunity to get in on the ground floor of understanding and using the technology powering autonomous vehicles,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and Founder, and MIT Professor.

Enroll now and don’t miss the chance to join in the first vehicle autonomy MOOC with hands-on learning!

AI Driving Olympics 5th edition: results

AI-DO 5: Urban league winners

This year’s challenges were lane following (LF), lane following with pedestrians (LFP) and lane following with other vehicles, multibody (LFV_multi). 

Let’s find out the results in each category:

LF

  1. Andras Beres 🇭🇺  
  2. Zoltan Lorincz 🇭🇺
  3. András Kalapos 🇭🇺

LFP

  1. Bea Baselines 🐤
  2. Melisande Teng 🇨🇦 
  3. Raphael Jean 🇨🇦

LFV_multi

  1. Robert Moni 🇭🇺
  2. Márton Tim 🇭🇺
  3. Anastasiya Nikolskay 🇷🇺

Congratulations to the Hungarian Team from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics for collecting the highest rankings in the urban league!

Here’s how the winners in each category performed both in the qualification (simulation) and in the finals running on real hardware:

Andras Beres - Lane following (LF) winner

Melisande Teng - Lane following with pedestrians (LFP) winner

Robert Moni - Lane following with other vehicles, multibody (LFV_multi) winner

AI-DO 5: Advanced Perception league winners

Great participation and results in the Advanced Perception league! Check out this year’s winners in the video below:

AI-DO 5 sponsors

Many thanks to our amazing sponsors, without which none of this would have been possible!

Stay tuned for next year AI Driving Olympics. Visit the AI-DO page for more information on the competition and to browse this year’s introductory webinars, or check out the Duckietown massive open online course (MOOC) and prepare for next year’s competition!

AI-DO 5 leaderboard update

AI-DO 5 pre-finals update

With the fifth edition of the AI Driving Olympics finals day approaching, 1326 solutions submitted from 94 competitors in three challenges, it is time to glance over at the leaderboards

Leaderboards updates

This year’s challenges are lane following (LF), lane following with pedestrians (LFP) and lane following with other vehicles, multibody (LFV_multi). Learn more about the challenges here. Each submission can be sent to multiple challenges. Let’s look at some of the most promising or interesting submissions.

The Montréal menace

Raphael Jean at Mila / University of Montréal is a new entrant for this year. 

An interesting submission: submission #12962 

All of raph’s submissions.

The submissions from the cold

Team JetBrains from Saint Petersburg was a winner of previous editions of AI-DO. They have been dominating the leaderboards also this year.

Interesting submissions: submission #12905

All of JetBrains submissions: JBRRussia1. 

 

BME Conti

PhD student Robert Moni (BME-Conti) from Hungary. 

Interesting submissions: submission #12999 

All submissions: timur-BMEconti

 

Deadline for submissions

The deadline for submitting to the AI-DO 5 is 12am EST on Thursday, December 10th, 2020. The top three entries (more if time allows) in each simulation challenge will be evaluated on real robots and presented at the finals event at NeurIPS 2020, which happens at 5pm EST on Saturday, December 12.

Imitation Learning Approach for AI Driving Olympics Trained on Real-world and Simulation Data Simultaneously

Imitation Learning Approach for AI Driving Olympics Trained on Real-world and Simulation Data Simultaneously

The AIDO challenge is divided into two global stages: simulation and real-world. A single algorithm needs to perform well in both. It was quickly identified that one of the major problems is the simulation to real-world transfer. 

Many algorithms trained in the simulated environment performed very poorly in the real world, and many classic control algorithms that are known to perform well in a real-world environment, once tuned to that environment, do not perform well in the simulation. Some approaches suggest randomizing the domain for the simulation to real-world transfer.

We propose a novel method of training a neural network model that can perform well in diverse environments, such as simulations and real-world environment.

Dataset Generation

To that end, we have trained our model through imitation learning on a dataset compiled from four different sources:

  1. Real-world Duckietown dataset from logs.duckietown.org (REAL-DT).
  2. Simulation dataset on a simple loop map (SIM-LP).
  3. Simulation dataset on an intersection map (SIM-IS).
  4. Real-world dataset collected by us in our environment with car driven by PD controller (REAL-IH).

We aimed to collect data with as many possible situations such as twists in the road, driving in circles clockwise/counterclockwise, and so on. We have also tried to diversify external factors such as scene lighting, items in the room that can get into the camera’s field of view, roadside objects, etc. If we keep these conditions constant, our model may overfit to them and perform poorly in a different environment. For this reason, we changed the lighting and environment after each duckiebot run. The lane detection was calibrated for every lighting condition since different lighting changes the color scheme of the image input.

We made the following change to the standard PD algorithm: since most Duckietown turns and intersections are standard-shaped, we hard-coded the robot’s motion in these situations, but we did not exclude imperfect trajectories. For example, the ones that would go slightly out of bounds of the lane. Imperfections in the robot’s actions increase the robustness of the model. 

Neural network architecture and training

Original images are 640×480 RGB. As a preprocessing step, we remove the top third of the image, since it mostly contains the sky, resize the image to 64×32 pixels and convert it into the YUV colorspace.

We have used 5 convolutional layers with a small number of filters, followed by 2 fully-connected layers. The small size of the network is not only due to it being less prone to overfitting, but we also need a model that can run on a single CPU on RaspberryPi.

We have also incorporated Independent-Component (IC) layers. These layers aim to make the activations of each layer more independent by combining two popular techniques, BatchNorm and Dropout. For convolutional layers, we substitute Dropout with Spatial Dropout which has been shown to work better with them. The model outputs two values for voltages of the left and the right wheel drives. We use the mean square error (MSE) as our training loss.

Results

For the training evaluation, we compute the mean square error (MSE) of the left and the right wheels outputs on the validation set of each data source. 

The first table shows the results for the models trained on all data sources (HYBRID), on real-world data sources only (REAL) and on simulation data sources only (SIM). As we can see, while training on a single dataset sometimes achieves lower error on the same dataset than our hybrid approach. We can also see that our method performs on par with the best single methods. In terms of the average error it outperforms the closest one tenfold. This demonstrates definitively the high dependence of MSE on the training method, and highlights the differences between the data sources.

The next table shows simulation closed-loop performance for all our approaches using the Duckietown simulator. All methods drove for 15 seconds without major infractions, and the SIM model that was trained specifically on the simulation data only drove just 1.8 tiles more than our hybrid approach.

The third table shows the closed-loop performance in the real-world environment. Comparing the number of tiles, we see that our hybrid approach drove about 3.5 tiles more than the following in the rankings model trained on real-world data only.

Conclusion

Our method follows the imitation learning approach and consists of a convolutional neural network which is trained on a dataset compiled from data from different sources, such as simulation model and real-world Duckietown vehicle driven by a PD controller, tuned to various conditions, such as different map configuration and lighting. 

We believe that our approach of emphasizing neurons independence and monitoring generalization performance can offer more robustness to control models that have to perform in diverse environments. We also believe that the described approach of imitation learning on data obtained from several algorithms that are fitted to specific environments may yield a single algorithm that will perform well in general.

 —
 JBRRussia1 team

Join the AI Driving Olympics, 5th edition, starting now!

Compete in the 5th AI Driving Olympics (AI-DO)

The 5th edition of the Artificial Intelligence Driving Olympics (AI-DO 5) has officially started!

The AI-DO serves to benchmark the state of the art of artificial intelligence in autonomous driving by providing standardized simulation and hardware environments for tasks related to multi-sensory perception and embodied AI.

Duckietown hosts AI-DO competitions biannually, with finals events held at machine learning and robotics conferences such as the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) and the Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS). 

 The AI-DO 5 will be in conjunction with NeurIPS 2020 and have two leagues: Urban Driving and Advanced Perception

Urban driving league challenges

This year’s Urban League includes a traditional AI-DO challenge (LF) and introduces two new ones (LFP, LFVM).

Lane Following (LF)

The most traditional of AI-DO challenges: have a Duckiebot navigate a road loop without intersection, pedestrians (duckies) or other vehicles. The objective is traveling the longest path in a given time while staying in the lane.

Lane following with Pedestrian (LFP)

The LFP challenge is new to AI-DO. It builds upon LF by introducing static obstacles (duckies) on the road. The objectives are the same as for lane following, but do not hit the duckies! 

Lane Following with Vehicles, multi-body (LFVM)

In this traditional AI-DO challenge, contestants seek to travel the longest path in a city without intersections nor pedestrians, but with other vehicles on the road. Except this year there’s a twist. In this year’s novel multi-body variant, all vehicles on the road are controlled by the submission.

Getting started: the webinars

We offer a short webinar series to guide contestants through the steps for participating: from running our baselines in simulation as well as deploying them on hardware. All webinars are 9 am EST and free!

Introduction

Learn about the Duckietown project and the Artificial Intelligence Driving Olympics.

  • Nov. 9, 2020
ROS baseline

How to run and build upon the “traditional” Robotic Operation System (ROS) baseline.

  • Nov. 11, 2020
Local development

On the workflow for developing and deploying to Duckiebots, for hardware-based testing.

  • Nov. 13, 2020
RL baseline

Learn how to use the Pytorch template for reinforcement learning approaches.

  • Nov. 16, 2020
IL baseline

Introduction to the Tensorflow template, use of logs and simulator for imitation learning.

  • Nov. 18, 2020

Advanced sensing league challenges

Previous AI-DO editions featured: detection, tracking and prediction challenges around the nuScenes dataset.

For the 5th iteration of AI-DO we have a brand new lidar segmentation challenge.

The challenge is based on the recently released lidar segmentation annotations for nuScenes and features an astonishing 1,400,000,000 lidar points annotated with one of 32 labels.

We hope that this new benchmark will help to push the boundaries in lidar segmentation. Please see https://www.nuscenes.org/lidar-segmentation for more details.

Furthermore, due to popular demand, we will organize the 3rd iteration of the nuScenes 3d detection challenge. Please see https://www.nuscenes.org/object-detection for more details.

AI-DO 5 Finals event

The AI-DO finals will be streamed LIVE during 2020 edition of the Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS 2020) conference in December.

Learn more about the AI-DO here.

Thank you to our generous sponsors!

The Duckietown Foundation is grateful to its sponsors for supporting this fifth edition of the AI Driving Olympics!

Integrated Benchmarking and Design for Reproducible and Accessible Evaluation of Robotic Agents

Integrated Benchmarking and Design for Reproducible and Accessible Evaluation of Robotic Agents

Why is this important?

As robotics matures and increases in complexity, it is more necessary than ever that robot autonomy research be reproducible.

Compared to other sciences, there are specific challenges to benchmarking autonomy, such as the complexity of the software stacks, the variability of the hardware and the reliance on data-driven techniques, amongst others.

We describe a new concept for reproducible robotics research that integrates development and benchmarking, so that reproducibility is obtained by design from the beginning of the research/development processes.

We first provide the overall conceptual objectives to achieve this goal and then a concrete instance that we have built: the DUCKIENet.

The Duckietown Automated Laboratories (Autolabs)

One of the central components of this setup is the Duckietown Autolab (DTA), a remotely accessible standardized setup that is itself also relatively low-cost and reproducible.

DTAs include an off-the-shelf camera-based localization system. The accessibility of the hardware testing environment through enables experimental benchmarking that can be performed on a network of DTAs in different geographical locations.

The DUCKIENet

When evaluating agents, careful definition of interfaces allows users to choose among local versus remote evaluation using simulation, logs, or remote automated hardware setups. The Decentralized Urban Collaborative Benchmarking Environment Network (DUCKIENet) is an instantiation of this design based on the Duckietown platform that provides an accessible and reproducible framework focused on autonomous vehicle fleets operating in model urban environments. 

The DUCKIENet enables users to develop and test a wide variety of different algorithms using available resources (simulator, logs, cloud evaluations, etc.), and then deploy their algorithms locally in simulation, locally on a robot, in a cloud-based simulation, or on a real robot in a remote lab. In each case, the submitter receives feedback and scores based on well-defined metrics.

Validation

We validate the system by analyzing the repeatability of experiments conducted using the infrastructure and show that there is low variance across different robot hardware and across different remote labs. We built DTAs at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) and at the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago (TTIC).

Conclusions

Our contention is that there is a need for stronger efforts towards reproducible research for robotics, and that to achieve this we need to consider the evaluation in equal terms as the algorithms themselves. In this fashion, we can obtain reproducibility by design through the research and development processes. Achieving this on a large-scale will contribute to a more systemic evaluation of robotics research and, in turn, increase the progress of development.

If you found this interesting, you might want to:

IROS2020: Watch The Workshop on Benchmarking Progress in Autonomous Driving

What a start for IROS 2020 with the "Benchmarking Progress in Autonomous Driving" workshop!

The 2020 edition of the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) started great with the workshop on “Benchmarking Progress in Autonomous Driving”.

The workshop was held virtually on October 25th, 2020, using an engaging and concise format of a sequence of four 1.5-hour moderated round-table discussions (including an introduction) centered around 4 themes.

The discussions on the methods by which progress in autonomous driving is evaluated, benchmarked, and verified were exciting. Many thanks to all the panelists and the organizers!  

Here are the videos of the various sessions. 

Opening remarks

Theme 1: Assessing progress for the field of autonomous vehicles (AVs)

Moderator: Andrea Censi

Invited Panelists:

Theme 2: How to evaluate AV risk from the perspective of real world deployment (public acceptance, insurance, liability, …)?

Moderator: Jacopo Tani

Invited Panelists:

Theme 3: Best practices for AV benchmarking

Moderator: Liam Paull

Invited Panelists:

Theme 4: Do we need new paradigms for AV development?

Moderator: Matt Walter

Invited Panelists:

Closing remarks

You can find additional information about the workshop here.

The Workshop on Benchmarking Progress in Autonomous Driving at IROS 2020

The IROS 2020 Workshop on Benchmarking Autonomous Driving

Duckietown has also a science mission: to help develop technologies for reproducible benchmarking in robotics.  

The IROS 2020 Workshop on Benchmarking Autonomous Driving provides a platform to investigate and discuss the methods by which progress in autonomous driving is evaluated, benchmarked, and verified.

It is free to attend.

The workshop is structured into 4 panels around four themes. 

  1. Assessing Progress for the Field of Autonomous Driving
  2. How to evaluate AV risk from the perspective of real world deployment (public acceptance, insurance, liability, …)?
  3. Best practices for AV benchmarking
  4. Algorithms and Paradigms

The workshop will take place on Oct. 25, 2020 starting at 10am EDT

Invited Panelists

We have  a list of excellent invited panelists from academia, industry, and regulatory organizations. These include: 

  • Emilio Frazzoli (ETH Zürich / Motional)
  • Alex Kendall (Wayve)
  • Jane Lappin (National Academy of Sciences)
  • Bryant Walker Smith (USC Faculty of Law)
  • Luigi Di Lillo (Swiss Re Insurance), 
  • John Leonard (MIT)
  • Fabio Bonsignorio (Heron Robots)
  • Michael Milford (QUT)
  • Oscar Beijbom (Motional)
  • Raquel Urtasun (University of Toronto / Uber ATG). 

Please join us...

Please join us on October 25, 2020 starting at 10am EST for what should be a very engaging conversation about the difficult issues around benchmarking progress in autonomous vehicles.  

For full details about the event please see here.

Robust Reinforcement Learning-based Autonomous Driving Agent for Simulation and Real World

Robust Reinforcement Learning-based Autonomous Driving Agent for Simulation and Real World

We asked Róbert Moni to tell us more about his recent work. Enjoy the read!

The author's perspective

Most of us, proud nerd community members, experience driving first time by the discrete actions taken on our keyboards. We believe that the harder we push the forward arrow (or the W-key), the car from the game will accelerate faster (sooo true 😊 ). Few of us believes that we can resolve this task with machine learning. Even fever of us believes that this can be done accurately and in a robust mode with a basic Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) method known as Deep Q-Learning Networks (DQN).

It turned to be true in the case of a Duckiebot, and even more, with some added computer vision techniques it was able to perform well both in simulation (where the training process was carried out) and real world.

The pipeline

The complete training pipeline carried out in the Duckietown-gym environment is visualized in the figure above and works as follows. First, the camera images go through several preprocessing steps:

  • resizing to a smaller resolution (60×80) for faster processing;
  • cropping the upper part of the image, which doesn’t contain useful information for the navigation;
  • segmenting important parts of the image based on their color (lane markings);
  • and normalizing the image;
  • finally a sequence is formed from the last 5 camera images, which will be the input of the Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) policy network (the agent itself).

The agent is trained in the simulator with the DQN algorithm based on a reward function that describes how accurately the robot follows the optimal curve. The output of the network is mapped to wheel speed commands.

The workings

The CNN was trained with the preprocessed images. The network was designed such that the inference can be performed real-time on a computer with limited resources (i.e. it has no dedicated GPU). The input of the network is a tensor with the shape of (40, 80, 15), which is the result of stacking five RGB images. The network consists of three convolutional layers, each followed by ReLU (nonlinearity function) and MaxPool (dimension reduction) operations.

The convolutional layers use 32, 32, 64 filters with size 3 × 3. The MaxPool layers use 2 × 2 filters. The convolutional layers are followed by fully connected layers with 128 and 3 outputs. The output of the last layer corresponds to the selected action. The output of the neural network (one of the three actions) is mapped to wheel speed commands; these actions correspond to turning left, turning right, or going straight, respectively.

Learn more

Our work was acknowledged and presented at the IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence 2020 conference. We plan to publish the source code after AI-DO5 competition. Our paper is available on ieeexplore.ieee.org, deepai.org and arxiv.org.

Check out our sim and real demo on Youtube performed at our Duckietown Robotarium put together at Budapest University of Technology and Economics. .

Community Spotlight: Arian Houshmand – Control Algorithms for Traffic

No one likes sitting in traffic – it is a waste of time and damaging to the environment. Thankfully researcher Arian Houshmand from Boston University CODES lab is on the case -and he’s using Duckietown to help solve the problem.

Control algorithms to improve traffic

by Arian Houshmand

Traffic congestion around the world is worsening, according to transport data firm INRIX. In the U.S. alone, Americans wasted an average of 97 hours in traffic in 2018 – that’s two precious weekends worth of time. Captivity in traffic also costs them nearly $87 billion in 2018, an average of $1,348 per driver. Clearly, the need for smart transportation is reaching a fervor, not only to alleviate the mental and financial state of drivers, but to address the significant economic toll on affected cities.

Fortunately, development of intelligent mobility technologies is advancing.  In an ongoing research project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) NEXTCAR program, BU researchers in collaboration with researchers from University of Delaware, University of Michigan, Oak Ridge National Lab, and Bosch are developing technologies for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) to increase their fuel efficiency and as a bi-product reduce traffic congestion.

 

The goal of this project is to design control and optimization technologies that enable a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) to communicate with other cars and city infrastructure and act on that information. By providing cars with situational self-awareness, they will be able to efficiently calculate the best possible route, accelerate and decelerate as needed, and manage their powertrain. This is an important task toward advancing the vision to create an ‘Internet of Cars,’ in which connected and self-driving cars operate seamlessly with each other and traffic infrastructure, improving fuel efficiency and safety, and reducing traffic congestion and pollution.

Today’s commercially-available self-driving cars rely on costly sensors, specifically radar, camera, and LIDAR (light) to operate semi-autonomously. In the NEXTCAR project, BU researchers with project collaborators are looking to go beyond that by developing decision-making algorithms to improve the autonomous operation of a single hybrid vehicle as well as algorithms for communications between vehicles and their environment, enabling self-driving cars to cooperate and interact within their socio-cyber-physical environment.

Several different functions have been developed throughout this project including:

●      Eco-routing: Procedure of finding the optimal route for a vehicle to travel between two points, which utilizes the least amount of energy costs.

●      Eco-AND (Economical Arrival and Departure): An optimal control framework for approaching a traffic light without stopping at the intersection by having traffic light cycle time information.

●      CACC (Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control): An extension of adaptive cruise control

(ACC) that by benefiting from vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication increases the safety and energy efficiency by reducing headway.

In order to validate and test the developed technologies, researchers first use simulation environments to test the algorithms. After verifying through simulation, they implement the algorithms on Duckietown, and finally deploy them on real cars (Audi A3 e-tron) at the University of Michigan’s M-city (test track for self-driving cars).

 

We use Duckietown to train students on how to implement their algorithms on embedded systems and also as a means to demonstrate our developed technologies in action and in a live setting. Since most of our research focuses on Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs), we need to establish connections between individual Duckiebots and traffic lights. As a result, we created a platform for exchanging information and control commands between all the cars and traffic lights.

Online localization of Duckiebots is a challenging task, and is missing from the current framework. We relied on our external motion capture sensors (OptiTrack) to localize the robots.

Duckietown is a nice platform for performing experiments on autonomous robots since It is relatively simple to set up the town and Duckiebots. Moreover, the built in perception and lane keeping capabilities are very useful to kick off experiments quickly. Traffic lights and signs are also helpful to create different scenarios for testing algorithms in city-like scenarios.

What would make Duckietown even more useful in our application is feedback sensors for determining wheel rotational speed/position as it is difficult to correct for rotational speed errors of the wheels and a ROS node for exchanging information between robots and traffic lights for testing collaborative control algorithms.