- [pdf] [supp] [arXiv]
DriveAdapter: Breaking the Coupling Barrier of Perception and Planning in End-to-End Autonomous Driving
End-to-end autonomous driving aims to build a fully differentiable system that takes raw sensor data as inputs and directly outputs the planned trajectory or control signals of the ego vehicle. State-of-the-art methods usually follow the `Teacher-Student' paradigm. The Teacher model uses privileged information (ground-truth states of surrounding agents and map elements) to learn the driving strategy. The student model only has access to raw sensor data and conducts behavior cloning on the data collected by the teacher model. By eliminating the noise of the perception part during planning learning, state-of-the-art works could achieve better performance with significantly less data compared to those coupled ones. However, under the current Teacher-Student paradigm, the student model still needs to learn a planning head from scratch, which could be challenging due to the redundant and noisy nature of raw sensor inputs and the casual confusion issue of behavior cloning. In this work, we aim to explore the possibility of directly adopting the strong teacher model to conduct planning while letting the student model focus more on the perception part. We find that even equipped with a SOTA perception model, directly letting the student model learn the required inputs of the teacher model leads to poor driving performance, which comes from the large distribution gap between predicted privileged inputs and the ground-truth. To this end, we propose DriveAdapter, which employs adapters with the feature alignment objective function between the student (perception) and teacher (planning) modules. Additionally, since the pure learning-based teacher model itself is imperfect and occasionally breaks safety rules, we propose a method of action-guided feature learning with a mask for those imperfect teacher features to further inject the priors of hand-crafted rules into the learning process. DriveAdapter achieves SOTA performance on multiple closed-loop simulation-based benchmarks of CARLA.