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Long-term simultaneous localization and mapping in dynamic environments


Nicholas Carlevaris-Bianco, Long-term simultaneous localization and mapping in dynamic environments. PhD thesis, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan, January 2015.


One of the core competencies required for autonomous mobile robotics is the ability to use sensors to perceive the environment. From this noisy sensor data, the robot must build a representation of the environment and localize itself within this representation. This process, known as simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), is a prerequisite for almost all higher-level autonomous behavior in mobile robotics. By associating the robot's sensory observations as it moves through the environment, and by observing the robot's ego-motion through proprioceptive sensors, constraints are placed on the trajectory of the robot and the configuration of the environment. This results in a probabilistic optimization problem to find the most likely robot trajectory and environment configuration given all of the robot's previous sensory experience. SLAM has been well studied under the assumptions that the robot operates for a relatively short time period and that the environment is essentially static during operation. However, performing SLAM over long time periods while modeling the dynamic changes in the environment remains a challenge. The goal of this thesis is to extend the capabilities of SLAM to enable long-term autonomous operation in dynamic environments. The contribution of this thesis has three main components: First, we propose a framework for controlling the computational complexity of the SLAM optimization problem so that it does not grow unbounded with exploration time. Second, we present a method to learn visual feature descriptors that are more robust to changes in lighting, allowing for improved data association in dynamic environments. Finally, we use the proposed tools in SLAM systems that explicitly models the dynamics of the environment in the map by representing each location as a set of example views that capture how the location changes with time. We experimentally demonstrate that the proposed methods enable long-term SLAM in dynamic environments using a large, real-world vision and LIDAR dataset collected over the course of more than a year. This dataset captures a wide variety of dynamics: from short-term scene changes including moving people, cars, changing lighting, and weather conditions; to long-term dynamics including seasonal conditions and structural changes caused by construction.

Bibtex entry

@PHDTHESIS { ncarlevaris-phdthesis,
    AUTHOR = { Nicholas Carlevaris-Bianco },
    TITLE = { Long-term simultaneous localization and mapping in dynamic environments },
    SCHOOL = { Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan },
    YEAR = { 2015 },
    MONTH = { January },
    ADDRESS = { Ann Arbor, MI, USA },