Modeling and Computation in Planning: Better Heuristics from More Expressive Languages
Keywords:classical planning, heuristics, constraints, logic
Most of the key computational ideas in planning have been developed for simple planning languages where action preconditions and goals are conjunctions of propositional atoms. Preconditions and goals that do not fit into this form are normally converted into it either manually or automatically. In this work, we show that this modeling choice hides important structural information, resulting in poorer heuristics and weaker planning performance. From a theoretical point of view, we show that the direct generalization of relaxed planning graph heuristics to more expressive languages that implicitly allow conjunctions of atoms with more than one state variable leaves open a crisp gap, as it fails to properly account for the constraints over these variables. The simple propositional languages that are standard in planning do not remove this gap but “hide it under the rug” by forcing atoms to be of the form X=c, where c is a constant and X is a (usually boolean) state variable. Closing this gap in the computation of the relaxed planning graph for more expressive languages leads to a more accurate but intractable heuristic, yet a cost-effective tradeoff can be achieved using local forms of constraint propagation that result in better heuristics, better plans, and a more effective search. We show this empirically over a diverse set of illustrative examples using a fragment of the Functional STRIPS planning language.