Optimal steering for kinematic vehicles with applications to spatially distributed agents
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The recent technological advances in the field of autonomous vehicles have resulted in a growing impetus for researchers to improve the current framework of mission planning and execution within both the military and civilian contexts. Many recent efforts towards this direction emphasize the importance of replacing the so-called monolithic paradigm, where a mission is planned, monitored, and controlled by a unique global decision maker, with a network centric paradigm, where the same mission related tasks are performed by networks of interacting decision makers (autonomous vehicles). The interest in applications involving teams of autonomous vehicles is expected to significantly grow in the near future as new paradigms for their use are constantly being proposed for a diverse spectrum of real world applications. One promising approach to extend available techniques for addressing problems involving a single autonomous vehicle to those involving teams of autonomous vehicles is to use the concept of Voronoi diagram as a means for reducing the complexity of the multi-vehicle problem. In particular, the Voronoi diagram provides a spatial partition of the environment the team of vehicles operate in, where each element of this partition is associated with a unique vehicle from the team. The partition induces, in turn, a graph abstraction of the operating space that is in a one-to-one correspondence with the network abstraction of the team of autonomous vehicles; a fact that can provide both conceptual and analytical advantages during mission planning and execution. In this dissertation, we propose the use of a new class of Voronoi-like partitioning schemes with respect to state-dependent proximity (pseudo-) metrics rather than the Euclidean distance or other generalized distance functions, which are typically used in the literature. An important nuance here is that, in contrast to the Euclidean distance, state-dependent metrics can succinctly capture system theoretic features of each vehicle from the team (e.g., vehicle kinematics), as well as the environment-vehicle interactions, which are induced, for example, by local winds/currents. We subsequently illustrate how the proposed concept of state-dependent Voronoi-like partition can induce local control schemes for problems involving networks of spatially distributed autonomous vehicles by examining different application scenarios.