John L. Bresina and Richard Washington
In this paper, we discuss our approach to making the behavior of planetary rovers more robust for the purpose of increased productivity. Due to the inherent uncertainty in rover exploration, the traditional approach to rover control is conservative, limiting the autonomous operation of the rover and sacrificing performance for safety. Our objective is to increase the science productivity possible within a single uplink by allowing the rover’s behavior to be specified with flexible, contingent plans and by employing dynamic plan adaptation during execution. We have deployed a system exhibiting flexible, contingent execution; this paper concentrates on our ongoing efforts on plan adaptation. Plans can be revised in two ways: plan steps may be deleted, with execution continuing with the plan suffix; and the current plan may be merged with an "alternate plan" from an on-board library. The planrevision action is chosen to maximize the expected utility of the plan. Plan merging and action deletion constitute a more conservative general-purpose planning system; in return, our approach is more efficient and more easily verified, two important criteria for deployed rovers.