Threat Assessment and Proactive Decision-Making for Crash Avoidance in Autonomous Vehicles

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Virginia Tech


Threat assessment and reliable motion-prediction of surrounding vehicles are some of the major challenges encountered in autonomous vehicles' safe decision-making. Predicting a threat in advance can give an autonomous vehicle enough time to avoid crashes or near crash situations. Most vehicles on roads are human-driven, making it challenging to predict their intentions and movements due to inherent uncertainty in their behaviors. Moreover, different driver behaviors pose different kinds of threats. Various driver behavior predictive models have been proposed in the literature for motion prediction. However, these models cannot be trusted entirely due to the human drivers' highly uncertain nature. This thesis proposes a novel trust-based driver behavior prediction and stochastic reachable set threat assessment methodology for various dangerous situations on the road. This trust-based methodology allows autonomous vehicles to quantify the degree of trust in their predictions to generate the probabilistically safest trajectory. This approach can be instrumental in the near-crash scenarios where no collision-free trajectory exists. Three different driving behaviors are considered: Normal, Aggressive, and Drowsy. Hidden Markov Models are used for driver behavior prediction. A "trust" in the detected driver is established by combining four driving features: Longitudinal acceleration, lateral acceleration, lane deviation, and velocity. A stochastic reachable set-based approach is used to model these three different driving behaviors. Two measures of threat are proposed: Current Threat and Short Term Prediction Threat which quantify present and the future probability of a crash. The proposed threat assessment methodology resulted in a lower rate of false positives and negatives. This probabilistic threat assessment methodology is used to address the second challenge in autonomous vehicle safety: crash avoidance decision-making. This thesis presents a fast, proactive decision-making methodology based on Stochastic Model Predictive Control (SMPC). A proactive decision-making approach exploits the surrounding human-driven vehicles' intent to assess the future threat, which helps generate a safe trajectory in advance, unlike reactive decision-making approaches that do not account for the surrounding vehicles' future intent. The crash avoidance problem is formulated as a chance-constrained optimization problem to account for uncertainty in the surrounding vehicle's motion. These chance-constraints always ensure a minimum probabilistic safety of the autonomous vehicle by keeping the probability of crash below a predefined risk parameter. This thesis proposes a tractable and deterministic reformulation of these chance-constraints using convex hull formulation for a fast real-time implementation. The controller's performance is studied for different risk parameters used in the chance-constraint formulation. Simulation results show that the proposed control methodology can avoid crashes in most hazardous situations on the road.



Hidden Markov Models, Stochastic Reachable Sets, Stochastic Model Predictive Control, Threat Assessment