Research Publications
Smart Pointers and Shared Memory Synchronisation for Efficient Inter-process Communication in ROS on an Autonomous Vehicle
Costin Iordache, Stephen M. Fendyke, Mike J. Jones, Robert A. Buckley
2021 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS)
Despite the stringent requirements of a real-time system, the reliance of the Robot Operating System (ROS) on the loopback network interface imposes a considerable overhead on the transport of high bandwidth data, while the nodelet package, which is an efficient mechanism for intra-process communication, does not address the problem of efficient local inter-process communication (IPC). To remedy this, we propose a novel integration into ROS of smart pointers and synchronisation primitives stored in shared memory. These obey the same semantics and, more importantly, exhibit the same performance as their C++ standard library counterparts, making them preferable to other local IPC mechanisms. We present a series of benchmarks for our mechanism - which we call LOT (Low Overhead Transport) - and use them to assess its performance on realistic data loads based on Five's Autonomous Vehicle (AV) system, and extend our analysis to the case where multiple ROS nodes are running in Docker containers. We find that our mechanism performs up to two orders of magnitude better than the standard IPC via local loopback. Finally, we apply industry-standard profiling techniques to explore the hotspots of code running in both user and kernel space, comparing our implementation against alternatives.

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