Task planning in robotics: an empirical comparison of PDDL- and ASP-based systems


Robots need task planning algorithms to sequence actions toward accomplishing goals that are impossible through individual actions. Off-the-shelf task planners can be used by intelligent robotics practitioners to solve a variety of planning problems. However, many different planners exist, each with different strengths and weaknesses, and there are no general rules for which planner would be best to apply to a given problem. In this study, we empirically compare the performance of state-of-the-art planners that use either the planning domain description language (PDDL) or answer set programming (ASP) as the underlying action language. PDDL is designed for task planning, and PDDL-based planners are widely used for a variety of planning problems. ASP is designed for knowledge-intensive reasoning, but can also be used to solve task planning problems. Given domain encodings that are as similar as possible, we find that PDDL-based planners perform better on problems with longer solutions, and ASP-based planners are better on tasks with a large number of objects or tasks in which complex reasoning is required to reason about action preconditions and effects. The resulting analysis can inform selection among general-purpose planning systems for particular robot task planning domains.

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A portion of this work has taken place in the Learning Agents Research Group (LARG) at UT Austin. LARG research is supported in part by NSF (IIS-1637736, IIS-1651089, IIS-1724157), ONR (N00014-18-2243), FLI (RFP2-000), Intel, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin. Peter STONE serves on the Board of Directors of Cogitai, Inc. The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by the University of Texas at Austin in accordance with its policy on objectivity in research.

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Correspondence to Shi-qi Zhang.

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Jiang, Y., Zhang, S., Khandelwal, P. et al. Task planning in robotics: an empirical comparison of PDDL- and ASP-based systems. Frontiers Inf Technol Electronic Eng 20, 363–373 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1631/FITEE.1800514

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Key words

  • Task planning
  • Robotics
  • Planning domain description language (PDDL)
  • Answer set programming (ASP)

CLC number

  • TP242