# OPTIMAL PATHS FOR A CAR THAT GOES BOTH FORWARDS AND BACKWARDS

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1 PACIFIC JOURNAL OF MATHEMATICS Vol. 145, No. 2, 1990 OPTIMAL PATHS FOR A CAR THAT GOES BOTH FORWARDS AND BACKWARDS J. A. REEDS AND L. A. SHEPP The path taken by a car with a given minimum turning radius has a lower bound on its radius of curvature at each point, but the path has cusps if the car shifts into or out of reverse gear. What is the shortest such path a car can travel between two points if its starting and ending directions are specified? One need consider only paths with at most 2 cusps or reversals. We give a set of paths which is sufficient in the sense that it always contains a shortest path and small in the sense that there are at most 68, but usually many fewer paths in the set for any pair of endpoints and directions. We give these paths by explicit formula. Calculating the length of each of these paths and selecting the (not necessarily unique) path with smallest length yields a simple algorithm for a shortest path in each case. These optimal paths or geodesies may be described as follows: If C is an arc of a circle of the minimal turning radius and S is a line segment, then it is sufficient to consider only certain paths of the form CCSCC where arcs and segments fit smoothly, one or more of the arcs or segments may vanish, and where reversals, or equivalently cusps, between arcs or segments are allowed. This contrasts with the case when cusps are not allowed, where Dubins (1957) has shown that paths of the form CCC and CSC suffice. 1. Introduction. We want to find a shortest path in the plane with specified initial and final points and directions and with the further constraint that at each point the radius of curvature should be > 1. This problem arose in a simple model for a robot cart which moves under computer control. The cart can shift into reverse and so the path is allowed to have cusps. In an elegant paper, Lester Dubins (1957) solved the problem when the car cannot reverse and cusps are not allowed. Even in this case it is apparently impossible to give an explicit formula for the shortest path. Instead Dubins gives a sufficient set of paths, i.e. a set which always contains what he called a geodesic, or optimal path. His sufficient set is so small that there are at most 6 contenders in the set for each case of specified endpoint conditions, and it is a simple matter to find the shortest of these 6, which gives an algorithm for the solution. He showed that any geodesic can be described by one of 6 words: 367

2 368 J. A. REEDS AND L. A. SHEPP, /sr, r/r, rsr, rs/ where /, r, and s stand for "go left", "go right", and "go straight", respectively. Here left and right mean anticlockwise or clockwise around a circle of unit radius, i.e. a tightest possible circle, and of course one always goes less than 2π around any circle. More compactly, Dubins proved that a geodesic must be a smooth curve that is piecewise circular (radius 1) or linear, with at most 3 pieces, and always takes the form CCC or CSC where C is an arc of a unit circle and S is a line segment. A word notation like CCC or /sr thus stands for the corresponding class of paths. We use subscripts on a word (as in / t s u r υ ) to specify the length of the corresponding arcs or segments involved. Note that one or more of these lengths may vanish. For example, to choose a path which returns to the initial point but in the opposite direction, two competing paths of Dubins type suggest themselves: 4π/2 5 24τr/2 an d / π /3 r 5π/3^π/3 ( see Figs. A, B). It is easy to verify that both of these accomplish the job FIGURE A FIGURE B FIGURE C

3 OPTIMAL PATHS 369 of reversing in place but the second is shorter and turns out to be optimal by Dubins's theorem, as is the symmetrically reflected path, r π/3^5π/3 r π/3 ( see Fig- Q Note that in a crude dimensional sense, the number of free parameters t, w, v exactly matches the number (3) of conditions of endpoint and direction. For each of the words fs/, /sr, rsr and rs/ it is not hard to show that there is at most one path obeying the end conditions. Although there may actually be two distinct paths of form f^ua) or of form r t / u r υ, Dubins shows [4, p. 513, Sublemma] that only one of them, with u > π, can be a geodesic. With this fact it is not hard to show that there is at most one geodesic for each word, although there may be two different words which are both optimal, as in the reverse-in-place example. Dubins has given an effective algorithm for the forward problem, but what if the car can reverse? We remark that A. A. Markov in 1887 (Markov (1887), see also [Krein-Nudelman, p. 17]) considered and solved various related versions of these problems in his work on laying railroad track connecting already existing sections of track. Other papers of interest are Melzak (1961) and Dubins (1961). If cusps are allowed in the path then we must consider words built from /+, /", r +, r~, s +, and s~, where / + means turning to the left while going forwards, /" means turning to the left while going backwards, etc. Note that a path of the form / + r~, for example, has a cusp whereas /+r + or /~r~ has no cusp. (In car-driving terms, the letters /, r, s refer to the steering wheel and the signs + and - refer to the gear shift.) It is easy to see that cusps can sometimes shorten Dubins's paths; for example, in the reverse-in-place problem, the path ^2 r π/3^π/3 ( see Fig. D) reverses in place and is shorter (in fact, it is optimal). Here the superscript indicates the direction taken along the corresponding arc or segment. We give a set of words in / ±, r*, s ± which give a solution to the reverse problem analogous to that of Dubins for the forward problem. These are more compactly given in C, S notation: (l.i) c + c~c +, c + c~c- 9 c+c+c-, c~s /2 together with the words obtained by reversing all the signs. Here C

4 370 J. A. REEDS AND L. A. SHEPP stands for either / or r so CC means either /r or rf. A C+ /2 or C~ π, 2 means the corresponding / or r must be of length π/2, and the combination C U C U in (1.1) means the two corresponding circular segments have equal lengths. For more precision we will use the somewhat redundant convention that in Cf, 4 ± > r t > o r ^ Λe sign of t should match the direction, i.e. t > 0 when the car is going forward, t < 0 when it is reversing a distance ί along a left-circle, right-circle, or straight line. Note that in a family of paths such as CfC~C~C+ the number (4) of free parameters t 9 u,v,w is one more than the number (3) of end conditions, and so there typically is a manifold of solutions, t, u, v, w for given end conditions. Optimizing among the paths of the family gives an extra equation such as v = u, or v = π/2, so that in each case in (1.1) only 3 free parameters remain. Of course any length not π/2 can vanish, so sub words are included as well. We will show (in the remark below the proof of Lemma 3) that there are paths for example, in the class C+C~C + C~C+C~ which are not of any of the above types and which are geodesies but in all such cases there are equally short geodesies inside our class (1.1). This phenomenon of geodesies that are not in the sufficient set does not occur in the simpler forward problem. In a still more compact notation that avoids ±, we may write the list of sufficient special paths as (1.2) C\C\C, CC\C, CSC, CC U \C U C, C\C u Cu\C, C\C π/2 SC, C\C π/2 SC π/2 \C, C\CC, CSC π/2 \C where means reverse direction. There are 48 different words in / ±, 5 ±, r* when C in (1.1) or (1.2) is replaced by C = / or C = r. Some of these 48 words have 2 formulas for an actual path of its word type. There are at most 68 formulas in any given case. Table 1 summarizes the 48 words and 68 formulas. Dubin's proof is different from ours. He shows that there are geodesies for any endpoint conditions, i.e. the infimum is achieved, and then proves the lemma that any geodesic of length less than π/8 must be a CSC. It then follows easily that every geodesic must beia finite word in C and S, and then using a series of special arguments reduces all finite words to CCC or CSC. We use advanced calculus to deduce our result from Dubin's theorem and then in 7, we use the same general method to outline a separate proof of Dubin's theorem itself. In fact, we do not see how

5 OPTIMAL PATHS 371 TABLE 1 This table lists the 48 words in our sufficient set, together with their shorthand names as used in (1.1) and (1.2). The last column gives the segment length formulas for the given word. explicit (1.1) form (1.2) form Section 8 formula Γr + Γ r + Γr + l + r~γ Γr + Γ r + Γr~ C + C~C + C~C + C~ C + C~C + C+C~C~ C~C + C + C + C~C~ C~C + C + CICΊC C\C\C c\c\c c\c\c c\cc c\cc c\cc c\cc (8.3), two roots (8.3), two roots (8.3), two roots (8.3), two roots (8.4), two roots (8.4), two roots (8.4), two roots (8.4), two roots Γr~l + Γr + Γ ill? l + rz u lz u r + r + ίz u rz u l + C-CC+ c~c~c + c + c + c~ c + ctcz u c~ c~cz u ctc + C + CZ u CZuC + c-cictc- Ks Ks _fl/2ιj ^ C C<κj 2 S C cc\c cc\c cc\c cc\c cc u \c u c cc u \c u c cc u \c u c cc u \c u c c\c u c u \c c\c u c u \c c\c u c u \c c\c u c u \c c\c κ/2 sc c\c π/2 sc C\C K/2 SC c\c %/2 sc (8.4), two roots (8.4), two roots (8.4), two roots (8.4), two roots (8.7), two roots (8.7), two roots (8.7), two roots (8.7), two roots (8.8) (8.8) (8.8) (8.8) (8.9) (8.9) (8.9) (8.9) Γs-rZπnl* r S /-π/2 r+ C S C π / 2 C CSCyJ^C csc^ic CSC^IC (8.9) (8.9) (8.9) (8.9) r + lz π(2 sί~ C\C π/2 SC C\C XI2 SC C\C π/2 SC C\C %I2 SC (8.10) (8.10) (8.10) (8.10) r~s-rz %l2 l + Γs~r~ r~s~γ Γs'Γ r + s + r + r~s~r~ c-s-czj 2 c + c + s + cϊ /2 c- c + s + c + c+s + c + c~s~cc + s + c + c~s~c~ C+S+C+ CS'C- csc^c csc π/2 \c csc %l2 \c CSC CSC CSC CSC CSC CSC CSC CSC c\c^2sc«2 \c C 1 C π/2θc π/2 I C (8.10) (8.10) (8.10) (8.10) (8.2) (8.2) (8.2) (8.2) (8.1) (8.1) (8.1) (8.1) (8.11), two roots (8.11), two roots (8.11), two roots (8.11), two roots

6 372 J. A. REEDS AND L. A. SHEPP to formulate a result analogous to his short geodesic lemma for the reverse problem, so his methods do not seem to work in a straightforward way. We show instead that any curve can be approximated by a word in C ± and S ±. Then we show that any word in C*, S ± can be reduced to one in at most 5 letters without increasing its length. Finally we reduce to a word on the list by using ideas similar to the last part of Dubin's proof. Although we give a rigorous proof of our assertions, we used a computer to empirically determine a sufficient list of words as follows: Given a set W of words, we tested W for insufficiency by generating the endpoint conditions randomly and first finding the best path in W. If a shorter path can be found by concatenating two paths in W, then W is insufficient. Using this method and pruning, we eventually arrived at and convinced ourselves that we had a minimal sufficient set. Once we had guessed at W, we used the computer again to help do the extensive algebra in the large number of cases involved to verify that a rigorous proof could be given by the method outlined above. Finally, we found that the proof could be simplified ( 2), so that it can easily be followed by an ordinary human without a computer to check the details. But we think that we could never have found the right set of words without using a computer. In 7 we outline a proof of Dubin's theorem by our method. In 8 we give a list of formulas to compute the lengths of each of the 68 actual path-solutions for each of the 48 word types suitable for algorithmic implementation. 2. Admissible paths. For us, the state of a car at a given instant t, where t is arclength, is completely specified by its position (x(t),y(t)) in the plane. An admissible path or curve is a function γ(t) = (x(t), y(t), φ{i)) for which we can find measurable functions e and η for which (2.1) x{t) = JΓ(O) + / e(τ) cos φ{τ) dτ, Jo y(t)=y(0)+ ε(τ)sinφ(τ)dτ, Jo where fη{τ) dτ Jo

8 374 J. A. REEDS AND L. A. SHEPP cusp in the opposite direction for some distance > 0, then continues along the straight line, for some distance > 0, which is tangent to the second circle. A path in C\CS is a member of C + C~S~ or C~C+S+ according as the initial direction is forward or reverse. A path of C+C~S~ is a member of /+r~s~ or r + /~s~ according as the initial rotation is counterclockwise or clockwise. A word is said to have proper form if each of the durations of its segments or letters is nonzero. A word of special form is one of those in (1.1), or (1.2). We say a word can be shortened to another word if for every path of the form of the first word there is a shorter path of the form of the second word with the same endpoint conditions of position and direction. Our first result, proved in 4, is the hardest. THEOREM I. Any word with 3 cusps can be shortened to a word with two or fewer cusps. The obvious induction then yields the following. COROLLARY. Any word can be shortened to a word with two or fewer cusps. By applying Dubins's theorem to the parts of the word between consecutive cusps or endpoints (where the path is always in the same direction) we see that any word with two or fewer cusps can be shortened to a word with two or fewer cusps and with 9 or fewer segments, or letters C and S. In fact even more can be done: THEOREM 2. Any word can be shortened to a word of special form (1.3). This is proved in 5. Finally a simple approximation argument in 6 shows these results apply to all admissible paths, not just to paths described by words. Thus we obtain: THEOREM 3. Any admissible path can be shortened to a word of special form (1.2) ^ The general technique for proving Theorems 1 and 2 is as follows: Given a four segment word γ, that is, a word with 4 letters C and S, consider the four dimensional family of all words of the same type

9 OPTIMAL PATHS 375 as γ with the same starting point and starting direction. Typically a one dimensional subfamily will also share final endpoint and final direction with γ, as can be seen by counting constraint equations. Using calculus and setting derivatives to zero we can find the shortest path in this subfamily; its four durations will obey a critical point equation. Thus if γ is not strictly shortenable in its class its four durations or segment lengths must satisfy the appropriate critical point equations. If a word w with more than 4 segments is not strictly shortenable within its type, this process can be repeated on each 4 segment subword to yield a series of relations between the segment lengths. These relations typically force w to have a very constrained shape, which enable further deductions about w to be made. The following notations are helpful. For t er let L t, R t, (3.1) L, :R 3 ->R 3, R t : R 3 - R 3, S t : R 3 - R 3 be the position and direction at time t of a unit circle, f t or r t, and a line segment s t, respectively, starting from (x, y, φ) 9 so that (3.2) L t (x,y,φ) = (x + sin(φ + t) - sin φ, y - cos(φ + t) R t (x, y,</>) = (x - sin(</> - t) + sin φ, y + cos(φ - t) S t (x,y,φ) = (x Then a curve ^r's'/^ at S t + cos</>, φ + t), - cos φ, φ t), starting at (0,0,0) for instance must end (3.3) (X(t, u, v, w), Y(t, u,v,w), Φ(/, u, v, w)) and its length is = R w (S υ (R u (L t (0,0,0)))) (3.4) L(t, u,v,w) = \t\ + \u\ + \v\ + \w\ = t u υ w. Let VX be the gradient of X(t, u, v, w), i.e. V^ ' aw ' dv ' dw) and similarly for V7, VΦ, and VL. For each word, formulas for VX, V7, VΦ, and VL can be obtained.

10 376 J. A. REEDS AND L. A. SHEPP For example, the word / t r u s υ / w starting at (0,0,0) has, by a short calculation and regardless of signs of /, u, v, w (3.5) X(t, w, v, w) = sin(w - w + ί) + v cos(w - ί) + 2 sin(w - ί) + 2 sin ί, Γ(ί, u, v, w) = - cos(w -u + t)-v sin(u - t) Φ(ί,u,v,w) = w-u + t, + 2 cos(u -t)-2cost+l, and VZ, V7, VΦ can be easily obtained. Similarly, the word / t r u s v r w starting at (0,0,0) has (3.6) X(t,u 9 v,w)= sin(w + u-t) + v cos(u - t) + 2 sin t,, u, v, w) = cos(w + u- t) -vsin(w ί) 2cosί + 1, 4. At most 2 cusps suffice. Here we show that any word with 3 or more cusps can be shortened to a word with < 2 cusps. We start with some lemmas: LEMMA 1. A word of proper form C\S can always be strictly shortened to a word with zero or one cusps. Proof. Suppose γ is of the form fγ~s v where T > 0 and V < 0 and leads from (0,0,0) to (x 9 y,φ). This is a special case of the 4-word ^t +r ΰ s ϋ^w where u = w = 0. We will show how to shorten γ by a word of this type. Consider the following system of ordinary differential equations with independent variable h: (4.1) 2cosw(/*)' υ(h) +2 sin u(h) U{h) = - 2υ(h)cosu(h) 2sinu(h) v(h) = 1 + v(h)co\$u(h)' sinu(h) w(h) = - v(h)cosu(h)' By Picard's existence and uniqueness theorems, [2, p. 12] this system has a solution for small enough values of h, which passes through the point (ί(0), u(0),v(0),w(0)) = (Γ, 0, V, 0). Let y(λ) denote

11 OPTIMAL PATHS 377 the corresponding curve ή(h) r u{h) s v{h)4v{h) It * s eas Y t0 check (using (3.4) and (3.5)) that y{h) leads from (0,0,0) to (x, y, φ) and that L'(h) = -1. It is also easy to see from (4.1) that ύ(h) < 0 and w(h) < 0 for all h > 0 sufficiently small, t{h) > 0, κ(λ) < 0, v(h) < 0, w(/z) < 0 so that γ(h) remains in the class /+r~s~/~. For all h sufficiently small γ(h) shortens γ (since L'{h) < 0) and γ(h) has only one cusp. D LEMMA 2. Suppose t, u, v, and w are all nonzero. (a) Suppose λ = C t C u \C υ S w is not strictly short enable in its class CC\CS. Then u = -v (mod2π) or u = v + π (mod2π). (b) Suppose λ = S t C u \C v S w is not strictly shortenable in its class SC\CS. Then u = -υ(moά2π) or u = v + π (mod2π). (c) Suppose λ = C t \C u S v C w is not strictly shortenable in its class C\CSC. Then v = 0 or u = π/2 (mod2π) or u = -π/2(mod2π). This also holds for w = 0, i.e., λ = C t \C u S v can be shortened inside the class C\CSC. (d) Suppose λ C t \C u \C v S w is not strictly shortenable in its class C\C\CS. Then u = 0 (mod2π) or u = π (mod2π). (e) Suppose λ = C t C u C υ \C w is not strictly shortenable in its class CCC\C. Then u = 2v + π(moά2π). (f) Suppose λ = C t \C u \C v C w is not strictly shortenable in its class C\C\CC. Then u = 0 (mod2π) or u = π (mod2π). (g) Suppose λ = Ct\C u C v \C w is not strictly shortenable in its class C\CC\C. Then u = v (mod2π) or u = v + π (mod2π). (h) Suppose λ = C t C u \C υ C w is not strictly shortenable in its class CC\CC. Then u = -υ (mod2π) or u = v + π (mod2π). Proof, (a) Suppose λ is a path from (0,0,0) to (x,y,φ) of type Z+rV-s-. Let F be the set of all paths of type f+r+f~s- from (0,0,0) to (x,y 9 φ), F can be identified with the set of all tuples (t, u,υ,w) for which (4.2) t>0, u>0, v<0, w<0, X(t,u,v,w)=x, Y(t,u,υ 9 w)=y, Φ(ί, u, υ, w) = φ, where (4.3) (X(t, u,υ,w), Y(t, u 9 v,w),φ(t 9 u 9 υ,w)) = S w (L v (R u (L t (0,0,0)))).

12 378 J. A. REEDS AND L. A. SHEPP Every point (t 9 u,υ,w) in F obeys one or more of the following: (1) One or more of the components of t, u, υ, w vanishes. (2) The linear space spanned by VX, VΓ, and VΦ has dimension less than 3. (3) No component of (t,u 9 v,w) vanishes and the span of (VΛΓ, VY 9 VΦ) has dimension 3, so some neighborhood of (t 9 u 9 υ 9 w) in F is a 1-manifold. Now A = 4 +r ί4;~ s w minimizes L{λ) = t + u - v - w in F. By hypothesis, none of t, w, υ, w vanish so either (2) or (3) holds. In case (3) the method of Lagrange multipliers ([3, p. 150], [6, p. 129]) shows there are reals λ x, λ y, and λφ so that (4.4) VL = λ x VX + λyvy + λφvφ. In both cases (2) and (3), then, the space spanned by VX, V7, VΦ, and VL has dimension at most 3, and hence the Jacobian determinant d(x,y,φ,l) Δ = d(t9 u, v 9 w) vanishes. Elementary calculus shows that (4.5) Δ = so the conclusion of (a) follows. Symmetry considerations show that if λ is of some other CC\CS type (such as f~r~f + s+ or r~l~r+s+, etc) the same results hold. The proof of the other claims (b)-(h) of Lemma 2 are mutatis mutandis the same. A trivial complication arises in (c), where both f+r~s~r~ and f+r~~s~f~ must be checked. D LEMMA 3. A word of the form C\C\C\C can always be (not necessarily strictly) shortened to a word with at most two cusps. Proof Let F be the set of all paths of the form ή + r~f υ +r~ from (0,0,0) to a given (x, y, φ). On connected components of F, the length function L(t, u, v, w) = t -u + v -w is constant, congruent modulo 2π to φ. Consider the new problem of minimizing w on F% As in the proof of Lemma 2, either some component of (t, u, υ, w) vanishes (yielding a word with at most 2 cusps) or the Jacobian determinant d(x 9 Y 9 Φ,w) Δ = d(t, u9 v 9 w)

13 vanishes. Elementary calculation shows (4.6) Δ = 4sinw OPTIMAL PATHS 379 so that w = 0 or π. If u = 0 the word is of the form f^/^r' = f t X υ r~ which has < 1 cusps. If u = π then the sign of the second arc may be reversed since an arc of length π traversed in one direction is equivalent to a traversal of the other semicircle in the reverse direction (see Fig. 3). But this says that there is a curve of the form 4 +r π4 +r w leading from (0,0,0) to (x, y, φ) with fewer cusps. D We remark that if L is less then π then C C C C is optimal since \φ\ = L and Φ continually increases along C C C C. Similarly C C C "\C is optimal for any number of C's so long as L < π. We now can prove Theorem 1 itself: THEOREM 1. Any word with three cusps can be shortened to a word with two or fewer cusps. Proof. Let θ be a word with 3 cusps. Consider the family G of all words θ 1 of form θ f = α /f y where each of α, β, γ, and δ is of form CCC or CSC, where each segment in θ' has length <L(Θ), and where θ' has the same end conditions as θ. By Dubins's theorem applied to the cusp-free subwords of θ there is a word θ' in G with L(θ') < L(θ), so we may assume without loss of generality that θ is already in G. Since G is compact we may further assume θ minimizes L(θ) in G, so that θ is not strictly shortenable among words with < 3 cusps. The general idea is that no subword of such a θ can be strictly shortened without increasing the number of cusps. This is very much like Dubins's use of the principle (in the context of his forward problem) that a subpath of a geodesic is a geodesic. By Dubins's theorem each of a, β, γ, δ is one of these seven proper forms (4.7) C, CC, CCC, 5, OS, SC, CSC. Since θ cannot be strictly shortened with 3 or fewer cusps, the combination S\S cannot occur in θ, so if a = S or CS then β cannot be S or SC for example. By Lemma 1 the combinations C\S and S\C cannot occur in θ. These restrictions alone force a to have one of the proper forms (4.8) C, CC, CCC, SC, CSC

14 380 J. A. REEDS AND L. A. SHEPP and force β and γ to have one of the proper forms (4.9) C, CC, CCC, CSC and force δ to have one of the proper forms (4.10) C, CC, CCC, OS, CSC which reduces the overall number of possible forms from 7 4 = 2401 to = 400. We may suppose that SC\CS does not occur in θ: if S t C u \C υ S w did occur then Lemma 2 (b) and (a) says \v\ = π/2 and u = -v (mod2π) or u = v + π (mod2π). Since u and v have opposite signs and since \u\ < 2π we know u = v. Since V^/2 r -π/2 = fπ/2 r -π/2 s -t (see Fig. 1) we see that in this case S t C u \C υ S w = S t S- w C u \C v = St- w C u \C v. Since 4/2^-π/2 = r π/2 f- π /2 (again Fig. 1) we further see that C υ may be merged into a Q curve. Thus without changing the length of θ we may repeatedly replace all instances of the form SC\CS with SC\C, or by symmetry, by C\CS. Similarly, we may suppose that w has no instance of CC\CS. Arguing as before, applying Lemma 2 (a) and (c) to C t C u \C v S w we t 7Γ J7Γ t+2 0 J7Γ JΓ t t * 2 2*2 FIGURE FIGURE 2

15 OPTIMAL PATHS 381 CTΓ S (U FIGURE 3 see u = ±π/2 and υ = -u. Since 4/2>"-π/2 = r n / 2 /_ n/2 (Fig- 2) we may reverse the handedness of C M Ct; which allows QC U \C V to reduce to C ί+iέ C,,. Thus all instances of CC\CS and CCC\CS get replaced by C\CS and all instances of SC\CC and SC CCC get replaced by SC\C in 0. Similarly, if QIC^C^S^ occurs in θ, then by Lemma 2 (d), w = π (mod2π). But C π = C_ π (Fig. 3) so in either case C t \C u \C υ C w = C t C- u C v S w which has strictly fewer cusps. These simplifications together imply that we may replace θ by a word 0' with fewer cusps or by one in which neither β nor γ has the form CSC. In this last case, θ r contains one of these forms: (4.11) C C CC, CC\C\C, C\CC\CC\C, c\ccc\c, c\c\c\c. Each of these can be shortened or replaced by a word with fewer cusps, as follows: By Lemma 2 (f), C t \C u \C υ C w is unshortenable only if sinu = 0, i.e. u = π. Then C w = C_ w reduces the word as before. The case CC\C\C is symmetrically dealt with. The case C t \C u C υ \C w C x \C y is handled as follows. If \u\ > π the replacement Q\C U C V = C t C2 π -u\c v is a strict shortening with the same number of cusps. So we may assume \u\ < π and similarly \v\< π, tu < π, and x < π. By Lemma 2 (g), strict shortening is possible unless u = v or u = υ+π. But w and υ have the same sign so u = v. Similarly, w = x by Lemma 2 (g) and v = -w by Lemma 2 (h). But as we see in Fig. 4, and is easily verified, / u r u /- u r- u = /- u r- u / u r u SO C^ C^Cι; Cti;Cχ Cy = Cf CWCH C t/c w Cy == C^C ^C u\^u^u^y which has fewer cusps. The pattern C t \C u C v C w \C x similarly can be supposed to have \u\ < π, ty < π. By Dubins's theorem [4, p. 513, Sublemma], π < \v\ < 2π. By Lemma 2 (e), v = 2u + π (mod2π) and

16 382 J. A. REEDS AND L. A. SHEPP FIGURE 4 υ = 2w + π (mod2π), so \u\ < π/2 and \w\ < π/2. Because Suriu+πSu = S-ur π -2uf-u (see Fig. 5) we see C t \C u C υ C w \C x is strictly shortenable to C t C- u \Ch\C- w C x, where h = π - 2u since π - 2\u\ < π + 2\u\. Finally, Lemma 3 takes case of the C C C C case. D By applying Theorem 1 to subwords of an arbitrary word we can immediately obtain the following. COROLLARY. Any word can be shortened to a word with two or fewer cusps. REMARK. The reader may be wondering why we cannot simply get rid of any subword C U C V C W where u, v, w are nonzero and of the same sign. He may want to reason that by Dubins's lemma [4, p. 513, Sublemma], π < \υ\ < 2π but reversing the middle segment lets us replace C u C υ C w by Cu\C 2n -v\c w which is shorter. The trouble is this introduces two more cusps. But in Theorem 1 we want to keep reducing the number of cusps so such a cusp-increasing step is not permitted. However, now that Theorem 1 is proved we can use this lemma of Dubins to further reduce the sufficient set of words and eliminate CCCs and this will be done as part of the next step in the reduction to (1.2). 5. Words of special form suffice. Here we extend the conclusion of Theorem 1. THEOREM 2. Any word can be shortened to a word of the special form (1.2).

17 OPTIMAL PATHS 383 BEGIN. i u JΓ 4END u r 2u + FIGURE 5 7Γ-2U Proof. We observe that by Theorem 1 and Dubins's theorem, the set of words of the form a\β\γ where a, β, γ are each one of C, S, CC, CS, SC, CSC, CCC suffices. We narrow a\β\γ down to (1.1) or (1.2) using some lemmas. LEMMA 4. A proper word of the form Q\C U S V which is not shortenable to any word with < 1 cusps must have u = ±π/2. Proof. Suppose γ = /TW^V where T > 0, U < 0, and V < 0 is not shortenable to any word with one or fewer cusps. Consider the system of ordinary differential equations used in the proof of Lemma 1, but this time with boundary condition (5.1) (ί(0), κ(0), v(0), u (O)) = (Γ, U 9 V, 0). If V Φ 0 and tan U < 0 then Picard's theorem [2, p. 12] applies and since w(h) in (4.1) < 0, w(h) < 0 and so (5.2) γ(h) = f t (h) r u(h)sv(h)4υ{h) for sufficiently small h > 0 strictly shortens γ (since Z/(λ) = -1) and has only one cusp (since w(h) < 0 and we remain inside the family /+r~s~/~). If tan U > 0, on the other hand, then the system

18 384 J. A. REEDS AND L. A. SHEPP of ordinary differential equations, analogous to (4.1), 1 (5.3) i{h) = - 2 cos u(h)' v{h) + 2sinu(h) ύ(h) = - 2v(h)cosu(h) ' w(h) = sinu(h) v(h)cosu{h) with initial conditions (5.1) has by Picard's theorem, a solution for sufficiently small h which satisfies w(h) < 0 since u(0) = U and tant/ > 0 and v(0) = V < 0 and so w(h) < 0 for small A, since w(0) = 0. Using (3.6) it is easy to verify that for all h > 0, the endpoint (X(h), Y(h),Φ(h)) of the curve W v Y\ft) == H{h)^u(h)^υ(h)^w(h) is independent of h, i.e. dx/dh = dyjdh = dφ/dh = 0 and so y(/z) remains with the family /+r~~s~r~. It may be verified that L'{h) = -1 where L(h) = \t(h)\ + \u(h)\ + \υ(h)\ + \w(h)\ = t{h) - u(h) - υ(h) - ty(λ) and so y(λ) for sufficiently small h has only one cusp and strictly shortens Cτ\CuSy and has the same endpoints, when τu > 0. The only other case is U = ±π/2 which is excluded by the hypothesis of Lemma 4. D LEMMA 5. A word of the form CC\CC\C can always be strictly shortened to a word with at most 2 cusps. Proof. This is the only case where a second order analysis seems to be required, although in proving Dubins's theorem a second order analysis appears also to be required [4, Lemma 2] although it was not emphasized there that this was the method being used. Thus consider the function L(t,u,v,w,z) which is the length of an admissible C t C u \C v C w \C z. We may assume without loss that the path is 4 + r ί ^v~ r w^z r so that L(t, u, υ, w, z ) = t + u - v - w + z. J From Lemma 2(h) we learn that v = -u or else ftr u / v ~r~ can be" shortened inside CC\CC and so of course the full path can also be shortened. Similarly from Lemma 2(g) we learn W = V or else r+/~r~4 + can be shortened. We will show that for 0 < u < π/2 that ίj = tij = -w is a saddle point rather than a minimum value

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