Immobile Robots AI in the New Millennium

  • Brian C. Williams
  • P. Pandurang Nayak


A new generation of sensor-rich, massively distributed, autonomous systems are being developed that have the potential for profound social, environmental, and economic change. These systems include networked building energy systems, autonomous space probes, chemical plant control systems, satellite constellations for remote ecosystem monitoring, power grids, biospherelike life-support systems, and reconfigurable traffic systems, to highlight but a few. To achieve high performance, these immobile robots (or immobots) will need to develop sophisticated regulatory and immune systems that accurately and robustly control their complex internal functions. Thus, immobots will exploit a vast nervous system of sensors to model themselves and their environment on a grand scale. They will use these models to dramatically reconfigure themselves to survive decades of autonomous operation. Achieving these large-scale modeling and configuration tasks will require a tight coupling between the higher-level coordination function provided by symbolic reasoning and the lower-level autonomic processes of adaptive estimation and control. To be economically viable, they will need to be programmable purely through high-level compositional models. Self-modeling and self-configuration, autonomic functions coordinated through symbolic reasoning, and compositional, model-based programming are the three key elements of a model-based autonomous system architecture that is taking us into the new millennium.