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In Proceedings of the 8th IFAC Conference on Control Applications in Marine Systems, Rostock, Germany, September, 2010,

pp. 301-306.

Bayesian Network based sequential collision avoidance action execution for an

Ocean Navigational System
L. P. Perera* J. P. Carvalho** C. Guedes Soares***

*Centre for Marine Technology and Engineering (CENTEC), Technical University of Lisbon, Instituto Superior Tecnico,
Portugal (email:prasad.perera@mar.ist.utl.pt).
**INESC-ID, Technical University of Lisbon, Instituto Superior Tecnico, Portugal (email: joao.carvalho@inesc-id.pt).
*** Centre for Marine Technology and Engineering (CENTEC), Technical University of Lisbon, Instituto Superior Tecnico,
Portugal (Tel: +351 21 841 7468; email: guedess@mar.ist.utl.pt).

Abstract: This paper focuses on a study of the sequential action execution module for a collision
avoidance system in ocean navigation. The overall decision-action process of collision avoidance consists
on a Fuzzy logic based parallel decision making module and those decisions are formulated into collision
avoidance actions by a Bayesian network based sequential action execution module. The presented
collision avoidance system is capable of making multiple sequential actions to avoid complicated collision
situations involving multiple vessels in ocean navigation while still respecting the COLREGs rules and
Keywords: Ocean navigation, Collisions avoidance, Fuzzy logic, Bayesian Network, Decisions support
system, Decisions making, Parallel decisions, Sequential actions, COLREGs.

(1999), probabilistic approach based on ARPA system data

by Zeng et al. (2001), repulsive force based optimization
An intelligent decision-action making capability is an algorithm by Xue et al. (2009), virtual force field by Lee et
important facility in navigation and it has been one of the al. (2004) have been presented in the literature.
major challenges in autonomous navigational systems. A
The problem of collision avoidance in ocean navigation has
robust intelligent decision-action making process is what
been previously approached by several authors using several
ultimately influences the success of the autonomous
alternative techniques: Case Based Reasoning (CBR) by Liu
navigational systems in collision situations. Several
and Liu (2006); Self learning neuro-fuzzy network by Zhuo
intelligent collision avoidance facilities have been developed
and Hearn (2008); Anti-collision algorithm by Yang et al.
and implemented in land and air navigational systems, but the
(2007); Interval programming by Benjamin et al. (2006); If-
facilities for ocean navigational systems are still
Then logic by Smeaton and Coenen (1990) and Fuzzy logic
underdeveloped and far away from facilitating collision
by Hasegawa, (1987). The collision avoidance analysis has
avoidance capabilities even though 75-96% of marine
also been approached for several particular cases: in two
accidents and causalities are caused by some types of human
vessel collision situations by Kwik (1989); in narrow zig-zag
errors (Rothblum et al. 2002; Antão et al. 2008a,b). The
channel by Yavin et al. (1995); strategies in interaction
implementation of intelligent decision-action making
situations in ocean navigation by Chauvin and Lardjane
capabilities in navigation could reduce maritime accidents
and its respective causalities and represent long-term
economical benefits. Even though the problem of collision avoidance in ocean
navigation is not new, three major weaknesses have been
The vessel domain determination and safe navigational
identified in the previous approaches: the studies are limited
trajectory formation are important aspects of the safe ocean
to two vessel collision situations; the Target vessel speed
navigation. The vessel domain is defined as the area bounded
conditions are neglected; the Convention on the International
for dynamics of ocean vessel navigation. The vessel domain
Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs)
determination methods, based on, neural-classifiers is
rules and regulations IMO (1972) is simply ignored.This
proposed by Lisowski et al. (2000) and fuzzy logic is
study focuses on the formulation of a Bayesian network
proposed by Pietrzykowski and Uriasz (2009) in respective
based sequential action execution process that could be
literature. The safe navigational trajectory formation based on
implemented for ocean navigation to avoid multi-vessel
mathematical models of manoeuvring theory by Sutulo et al.
collision situations. Furthermore, the collision avoidance
(2002), neural networks by Moreira and Guedes Soares
decisions have been associated with a Fuzzy logic based
(2003), evolutionary algorithm by Smierzchalski and
parallel decision making process that follows the COLREGs
Michalewicz (2000), genetic algorithms by Ito et al. (1999),
rules and regulations of collision avoidance (Perera et al.,
analytical geometry and convex set theory by Hong et al.
2. COLLISION AVOIDANCE IN OCEAN NAVIGATION will track each vessel separately. Finally, the collected
tracking data will be used to predict each vessel’s trajectory
2.1 Multi-vessel collision situation in the Trajectory Prediction Unit. However, one must note
that constant speed and course conditions are assumed for the
Target vessels in this study.
A multi-vessel collision situation is presented in Figure 1.
The "Own vessel", i.e., the vessel equipped with the collision
avoidance system, is located in point O(k). The "Target
vessels" that should be avoided are located at points P1(k),
P2(k), …, Pn(k) with the navigational trajectories of S1(k),
S2(k), …, Sn(k) at the kth time instant. The Own vessel
trajectory S0(k) intersects the trajectories S1(k), S2(k), …,
Sn(k) at points C1(k), C2(k), …, Cn(k) at instants T1(k), T2(k),
…, Tn(k) respectively. When considering the COLREGs rules
and regulations, the vessel coming from the starboard side
has higher priority for the navigation and is called the "Stand
on" vessel, and the vessel coming from the port side has
lower priority and is called the "Give way" vessel. These
vessel conditions are considered in the formulation of the
collision avoidance system.

Fig. 1. Multi-vessel Collision Situations

2.2 Collision Avoidance System

Fig. 2. Block diagram for Collision Avoidance System
A block diagram for complete Collision Avoidance System
(CAS) is presented in Figure 2. The complete CAS consists
The main objective of the CRA module is to evaluate the
of four modules: Vessel Tracking & Trajectory Prediction
collision risk of each Target vessel with respect to the Own
(VTTP) Module, Collision Risk Assessment (CRA) Module,
vessel conditions. This is achieved by the Relative Trajectory
Parallel Decision Making (PDM) Module, and Sequential
Formation Unit and Collision Time and Point Estimation
Action Formulation (SAF) Module. The inputs to the VTTP
Unit. The inputs into the CRA module are the position data of
module are the real-time position of the Own vessel (xo(k),
the Own vessel and the Target vessels. The outputs of the
yo (k)) that is measured/estimated by the GPS/Inertial
CRA module are the Range (Ri(k)), Bearing (θi(k)), Relative
navigational systems and the Range (Ri(k)) and Bearing
course (ψi,o(k)) and Relative speed (Vi,o(k)) of ith Target
(θi(k)) values of the ith Target vessel that could be measured
vessel. These outputs of CRA module will input into the
by the Rader/Laser measurement systems on the kth time
PDM module at kth time instant. The Time until collision
Ti(k) of the ith Target vessel will also input into the SAF
The VTTP module consists of four units: Scan Unit, Data module as shown in Figure 2. The PDM module consists of a
Classification Unit, Clustered Data Tracking Unit and Fuzzy-logic based decision making process that generates
Trajectory Prediction Unit. The Scan Unit uses the parallel collision avoidance decisions Di(k) with respect to
Radar/Laser measurement system to collect the real-time each Target vessel.
position data of each Target vessel. Then the Target vessels’
Finally the ith parallel decision of collision avoidance Di(k)
position data will be used in the Data Classification Unit to
will be forwarded from the PDM module to the SAF module.
identify each vessel and the Clustered Data Tracking Unit
The main objective in the SAF module is to organize the
parallel decision made by the PDM module into sequential 3.3 Bayesian Network
actions, course control Aδψi(k) and speed control Aδvi(k),
actions (see Figure 2), that will be executed on the Own Figure 4 presents the structure of the continuous Bayesian
vessel navigation system. The formulation of the SAF Network proposed for formulation and update of the parallel
module is the main objective in this study. collision avoidance decisions into the sequential action
execution formation. As presented in the Figure, the Bayesian
3. SEQUENTIAL ACTION FORMULATION MODULE network consists of four nodes: Collision Time Estimation,
Collision Risk, Action Delay and Collision Avoidance
3.1 Navigational Decisions Actions. The Collision Decision Di(k) and Time until
Collision Ti(k) that are the inputs to the Bayesian network
that are originated from the PDM and CRA modules (see
The collision avoidance decision space of the ocean
navigation can be categorized into course and speed control Figure 2) respectively.
decisions. Considering the Range (Ri(k)), Bearing (θi(k)),
Relative course (ψi,o(k)) and Relative speed (Vi,o(k)) of the ith
Target vessel, the PDM module makes collision avoidance
decisions Di(k) regarding each Target vessel. Further details
regarding the collision avoidance decisions of the navigation
and PDM module can be found in Perera et al. (2010a) and
Perera et al. (2010b). Since these multiple collision avoidance
decisions are formatted in parallel with respect to each Target
vessel, they cannot be implemented simultaneously by the
Own vessel. Hence, the Sequential Action Formulation
Module (SAF) has been proposed to sequence these parallel Fig. 4. Bayesian Network Structure for Collision Avoidance.
3.3.1 Collision Risk Functions
3.2 Sequential Action Formation
The Collision Risk node mainly consists of the Collision Risk
An illustration of a sequential action space, formulated by the Function (CRF). The CRF, ∆i(k), of the Own vessel
decisions of course and speed changes, is presented in Figure navigation due to the ith Target vessel in the kth time instant is
3. defined as a Gaussian distribution ∆i(k) ~ N (µ∆i(k), σ∆i2(k)),
where mean µ∆i(k) is considered as the Time until collision
Ti(k). Hence the CRF mean µ∆i(k) can be written as:
| OA i (k) | (1)
T i (k) = µ ∆i (k) =
V i, o (k)
where |OAi(k)| is the Range and Vi,o(k) is the relative speed
of the ith Target vessel at the kth time instant. However it is
assumed that the CRF, ∆i(k), could be obtained from a noisy
observation of Zi(k),
Z i (k) = ∆ i (k) + ω zi (k ) (2)
where ωzi(k) ~ N (0, σz (k)), is a white Gaussian observation
noise. Hence the prior distribution of the CRF due to the ith
Target vessel at kth time instant can be written as a Gaussian
Fig. 3. Course and Speed change action space distribution:
1  (∆ (k) − µ ∆i (k) ) 
The main objective in the SAF module, formulation of the −  i
2 

1 σ ∆i 2 (k) 
parallel collision avoidance decisions into a sequential P(∆ i (k)) = α i e , (3)
actions, can be achieved by collecting the PDM module 1
where αi is the normalization constant. The transition model
multiple collision avoidance decisions Di(k)≡(Dδψi(k), of the CRF is considered as a Gaussian perturbation of
DδVi(k)) from the kth time instant in respect to each Target constant covariance σ∆2 to the current state of the CRF and
vessel, and arranging a sequential formation of actions Ai(k) can be written as:
≡ (Aδψi(k), AδVi(k)) with respect to the action execution Time
1  (∆ (k) − ∆ i (k −1) ) 
(Tδψi (k),TδVi(k)). When course change action is “starboard −  i 
2 2  σ∆2 

turn”, then δψo > 0; when is “port turn”, δψo < 0. Similarly, P(∆ i (k) | ∆ i (k − 1)) = α i e , (4)
when the speed change action is “speed increase”, then δVo >
0, and when it is “speed decrease”, δVo < 0 as presented in where 2αi is the normalization constant. The conditional
Figure 3. observation model for collision risk is assumed to be a
Gaussian distribution with a constant covariance σz2 and can V (∆ i (k) | Ω i (k) ) = V (Γ(k) | Ω i (k) ) (11)
be written as: = V (Ω i (k) ) = σ Γ
1  ( Z (k) − ∆ i (k) ) 
−  i  The conditional CRF with respect to the CAAF can be
3 2  σz2 

P(Z i (k) | ∆ i (k)) = α i e , (5) written as:
where 3αi is the normalization constant. The one step 1  (∆ (k) − (µ Ωi (k) + µ Γ ))2
−  i

2  σΓ2 
predicted distribution of the CRF can be written as: P(∆ i (k) | Ω i (k) ) = β i e 3  , (12)
∞ 3
where βi is the normalization constant. The prior distribution
P(∆ i (k)) = ∫ P(∆
i (k) | ∆ i (k − 1)) of the CAAF due to the ith Target vessel at kth time instant, as
a Gaussian distribution, can be written as:
P( ∆ i (k − 1))d ∆ i (k − 1)
1  (Ω i (k) − µ Ωi (k) )2 
1  (∆ (k) − ∆ i (k −1) )
2  −  
∞ −  i 
1 2  σ Ωi 2 (k) 

2  σ∆2  P(Ω i (k) ) = β i e , (13)
∫ 
= α ie
−∞ where βi is the normalization constant. The transition model
1  ( ∆ (k −1) − µ ∆i (k −1) )
2 
−  i  of the CAAF is considered as a Gaussian perturbation with
2  σ ∆i 2 (k −1) 
αie 
d∆ i (k − 1) constant covariance σΩ2 to the current state of the CAAF and
1 2 can be written as:
= αi αi
1 σ
(k − 1) ( ∆ i (k) − ∆ i (k −1) )2 + σ ∆ 2 (∆ i (k −1) − µ ∆i (k − 1) )2  1  (Ω i (k) − Ω i (k -1) )2 
∞ −  ∆i  −  
2   2 2  σΩ 2 

σ∆2 σ ∆i 2 (k −1) (14)
∫e 
d∆ i (k − 1) P(Ω i (k) | Ω i (k - 1)) = β i e
−∞ where βi is the normalization constant. The one step
1  (∆ (k) − µ ∆i (k − 1) ) 
−  i 2  prediction of the CAAF can be written as:
2  σ ∆ + σ ∆i 2 (k −1) 

=1 α i 2 α ie ∞

Considering the Bayesian Rule, the CRF update from the P(Ω i (k)) = ∫ P(Ω (k) | Ω i i −1 (k)) P(Ω i −1 (k)) dΩ i (k - 1)
observations can be written as: −∞
1  ( Ω i (k) − Ω i (k -1) )2  1  (Ω i (k -1) − µ Ωi (k -1) )2 
∞ −   −  
P(∆ i (k) | Z i (k)) = P(Z i (k) | ∆ i (k))P( ∆ i (k)) 2  σΩ2 2 2  σ Ωi 2 (k -1) 
= ∫ β ie
1 
β ie 
dΩ i (k - 1) (15)
1  ( Z (k) − ∆ i (k) )  1  ( ∆ i (k) − µ ∆i (k −1) ) 
2 2
−  i −  (7) −∞
2  σz2  1
 2  σ ∆ 2 + σ ∆i 2 (k − 1) 
= 3 α ie α i 2 α ie ∞ 1  σ 2 (k -1) ( Ω i (k) − Ω i (k -1) )2 + σ Ω 2 ( Ω i (k -1) − µ Ωi (k -1) )2 
−  Ωi
2  σΩ 2 σ Ωi 2 (k -1) 
Z i (k) σ ∆i ((k −1) + σ 2∆ . + µ ∆i (k −1)σ 2z  
) 2 = βi βi ∫ e
1 2 
dΩ i (k - 1)
 ∆ i (k) −  
1   −∞
σ ∆i (k − 1) + σ ∆2 + σ 2z  


σ ∆i ((k − 1) + σ 2∆ σ 2z ) 
 1  ( Ω i (k) − µ Ωi (k -1) )2
− 

 2
σ ∆i (k − 1) + σ 2∆ + σ 2z  1 2 2  σ Ω 2 + σ Ωi 2 (k -1) 

1 2
= α i α i α ie 3   = β i β ie
Hence the updated mean and covariance for the updated CRF One can reorganize (15) as:
can be written as: 1  ( (Ω i (k) + µ Γ )− (µ Ωi (k -1) + µ Γ ) )2 
−  
2  σ Ω 2 + σ Ωi 2 (k -1) 

µ ∆i (k) =
( 2
Z i (k) σ (k − 1) + σ . + µ ∆i (k − 1)σ
∆ ) 2
P(Ω i (k)) = β i β i e 1 2  (16)
σ ∆i (k − 1) + σ ∆2 + σ 2z (8) Considering the Bayesian rule, the CAAF update from the
CRF can be written as:
σ ∆i (k) =
(σ 2
∆i (k − 1) + σ ∆2 σ 2z )
σ (k − 1) + σ ∆2 + σ 2z
2 P(Ω i (k) | ∆ i (k)) = P(∆ i (k) | Ω i (k))P( Ω i (k))
1  (∆ (k) − (µ Ωi (k) + µ Γ ))2  1 ((Ω i (k) + µ Γ )− (µ Ωi (k -1) + µ Γ ))2  (17)
−  i  − 
3 2  σΓ2 1
 2 2  σ Ω 2 + σ Ωi 2 (k -1) 

3.3.2 Collision Avoidance Action Function = β ie β i β ie
  ( ) 
2 
 ( Ω i (k) + µ Γ )− ∆ i ( k ) σ Ω i ( k −1) + σ Ω .+ (µ Ω i ( k −1 ) + µ Γ )σ Γ
2 2 2
  
The Own vessel Collision Avoidance Action Function 1
− 
 
 σΩ 2 2 2
i ( k −1 ) + σ Ω + σ Γ

(CAAF) is modelled as a Gaussian distribution, Ωi(k) ~ N 2

σΩ 2
i ( k −1 ) + σ Ω σ Γ
) 

2 2 2
 σΩ i ( k −1 ) + σ Ω + σ Γ 
(µΩi(k), σΩi2(k)). The CAAF function with respect to the CRF =1 β i 2 β i 3 β i e  

can be written as:

Hence, the updated mean and covariance for the updated
∆ i (k) = Ω i (k) + Γ i (k) (9) CAAF can be written as:
where Γi(k) ~ N (µΓ, σΓ2), is the time delay function
µ Ωi (k) =
∆ i (k) σ 2Ωi (k − 1) + σ Ω2 . + (µ Ωi (k − 1) + µ Γ )σ 2Γ
− µΓ
approximated by a Gaussian distribution with constant mean 2
σ Ωi (k − 1) + σ Ω2 + σ 2Γ
µΓ and covariance σΓ2. The conditional mean and covariance
of the CRF with respect to the CAAF can be written as: 2
σ Ωi (k) =
(σ 2
(k − 1) + σ Ω2 σ 2Γ
Ωi )
σ 2Ωi (k − 1) + σ Ω2 + σ 2Γ
E (∆ i (k) | Ω i (k) ) = µ Ωi (k) + E (Γ i (k) | Ω i (k) ) (10) (18)
= µ Ωi (k) + µ Γ
3.3.3 Implementation of CAAF situations. Further, this method is capable of avoiding
multiple vessels under various collision conditions in ocean
The implementation of the accumulated CAAF Ai(k) can be navigation.
divided into two sections of Course Control (Aδψi(k)) and
Speed Control (AδVi(k)) actions, as presented in Figure 3.
However, the CAAF states are generated with respect to the
collision avoidance decision Di(k) from PDM module, of
Course Control (Dδψi(k)) and Speed Control (DδVi(k))
decisions. Hence, the accumulated Course and Speed Control
CAAF can be written as:
A δψ (k) = Σ D δψi (k) P (Ω ψi (k) | ∆ ψi (k) )
i =1 (19)
A δV (k) = Σ D δVi (k) P (Ω Vi (k) | ∆ Vi (k) )
i =1

These functions are implemented on the computational

simulations and the simulation results are presented in
following section.

Fig. 5. Avoidance of the 1st Target Vessel
A computational simulation for 4 vessels collision situation is
used as an example for the analysis of this study. As
presented in Figure 6, the Own vessel starts navigation at the
origin (0 (m), 0 (m)) and the Target vessels 1, 2 and 3 start
from positions (6000 (m), -6000 (m)), (8800 (m), 10000 (m)),
and (-13200 (m), 12000 (m)) respectively. It is assumed that
the Target vessels are moving in constant speed and course
conditions and don’t honour any navigational laws of the sea.
The Bayesian network based CRF is presented in the x =-
12000 (m) axis. The CAAF of course and speed control
actions are presented in x = -9000 (m) and x = -6000 (m) axis
respectively. Furthermore the scaled time axis (Actual Time
× 5 (s)) with respect to the CRF and CAAFs is presented in
the y axis.
The avoidance of the 1st Target vessel is presented in Figure
5. The CRF was detected and appropriate action was taken to
avoid the Target vessel that was not honouring the
COLREGs rules and regulations. The same figure, shows the Fig. 6. Avoidance of the 2nd Target Vessel
Own vessel detecting the 2nd target vessel, and presents the
CRF and course and speed control actions of CAAFs. The
CAAFs are course to the starboard and speed reduction. The
avoidance of the 2nd Target vessel is presented in Figure 6.
Further the Own vessel detected the 3rd Target vessel and
course to port and speed reduction of CAAFs are presented in
the respective axis. Finally the avoidance of the 3rd Target
vessel is presented in Figure 7. After executing the control
actions proposed in the previous section, the Own vessel is
crossing the Target vessel trajectory safely at the back of the

This paper introduces a novel method to formulate the
parallel decisions made by the Fuzzy-logic based system into
sequential actions execution using a Bayesian network
approach in a collisions avoidance system in ocean
navigation. As presented in the results, the Bayesian network Fig. 7. Avoidance of the 3rd Target Vessel
based action execution process could be used for complex
navigational conditions as well as complicated collision
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Moreira, L. and Guedes Soares, C. (2003). Dynamic model of
maneuvrability using recursive neural net-works. Ocean
This work has been made within the project ”Methodology Engineering, 30(13), 1669-1697.
for ships maneuverability tests with self-propelled models”, Perera, L.P., Carvalho, J. P., and Guedes Soares, C. (2010a).
which is being funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Smooth transition between fuzzy regions to overcome
Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e failures in fuzzy membership functions of decisions in
Tecnologia) under contract PTDC/TRA/74332/2006. The collision avoidance of ocean navigation, In Proc. 25th
research work of the first author has been supported by a Mini-EURO Conference on Uncertainty and Robustness
Doctoral Fellowship of the Portuguese Foundation for in Planning and Decision Making, Coimbra, Portugal, 1-
Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e 8.
Tecnologia) under contract SFRH/BD/46270/2008. Perera, L.P., Carvalho, J. P., and Guedes Soares, C. (2010b),
Fuzzy-logic based parallel collisions avoidance decision
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