Social Coordination and Altruism in Autonomous Driving

by   Behrad Toghi, et al.

Despite the advances in the autonomous driving domain, autonomous vehicles (AVs) are still inefficient and limited in terms of cooperating with each other or coordinating with vehicles operated by humans. A group of autonomous and human-driven vehicles (HVs) which work together to optimize an altruistic social utility – as opposed to the egoistic individual utility – can co-exist seamlessly and assure safety and efficiency on the road. Achieving this mission without explicit coordination among agents is challenging, mainly due to the difficulty of predicting the behavior of humans with heterogeneous preferences in mixed-autonomy environments. Formally, we model an AV's maneuver planning in mixed-autonomy traffic as a partially-observable stochastic game and attempt to derive optimal policies that lead to socially-desirable outcomes using a multi-agent reinforcement learning framework. We introduce a quantitative representation of the AVs' social preferences and design a distributed reward structure that induces altruism into their decision making process. Our altruistic AVs are able to form alliances, guide the traffic, and affect the behavior of the HVs to handle competitive driving scenarios. As a case study, we compare egoistic AVs to our altruistic autonomous agents in a highway merging setting and demonstrate the emerging behaviors that lead to a noticeable improvement in the number of successful merges as well as the overall traffic flow and safety.


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