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Workshop: Workshop on Distribution Shifts: New Frontiers with Foundation Models

Learning Causally-Aware Representations of Multi-Agent Interactions

Yuejiang Liu · Ahmad Rahimi · Po-Chien Luan · Frano Rajič · Alexandre Alahi

Keywords: [ multi-agent ] [ Out-of-Distribution Robustness ] [ sim-to-real transfer ] [ Causal Learning ]


Modeling spatial-temporal interactions between neighboring agents is at the heart of multi-agent problems such as motion forecasting and crowd navigation. Despite notable progress, it remains unclear to which extent modern representations can capture the causal relationships behind agent interactions. In this work, we take an in-depth look at the causal awareness of the learned representations, from computational formalism to controlled simulations to real-world practice. First, we cast doubt on the notion of non-causal robustness studied in the recent CausalAgents benchmark. We show that recent representations are already partially resilient to perturbations of non-causal agents, and yet modeling indirect causal effects involving mediator agents remains challenging. Further, we introduce a simple but effective regularization approach leveraging causal annotations of varying granularity. Through controlled experiments, we find that incorporating finer-grained causal annotations not only leads to higher degrees of causal awareness but also yields stronger out-of-distribution robustness. Finally, we extend our method to a sim-to-real causal transfer framework by means of cross-domain multi-task learning, which boosts generalization in practical settings even without real-world annotations. We hope our work provides more clarity to the challenges and opportunities of learning causally-aware representations in the multi-agent context while making a first step towards a practical solution.

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