One of the most straightforward notions of optimality is the Euclidean shortest path in or . Suppose that is a rigid body that translates only in either or , which contains an obstacle region . Recall that, ordinarily, is an open set, which means that any path, , can be shortened. Therefore, shortest paths for motion planning must be defined on the closure , which allows the robot to make contact with the obstacles; however, their interiors must not intersect.

For the case in which
is a polygonal region, the shortest-path
roadmap method of Section 6.2.4 has already been given.
This can be considered as a kind of multiple-query approach because
the roadmap completely captures the structure needed to construct the
shortest path for any query. It is possible to make a single-query
algorithm using the *continuous Dijkstra paradigm*
[443,708]. This method propagates a *wavefront* from
and keeps track of critical events in maintaining the
wavefront. As events occur, the wavefront becomes composed of *wavelets*, which are arcs of circles centered on obstacle vertices.
The possible events that can occur are 1) a wavelet disappears, 2) a
wavelet collides with an obstacle vertex, 3) a wavelet collides with
another wavelet, or 4) a wavelet collides with a point in the interior
of an obstacle edge. The method can be made to run in time
and uses
space. A roadmap is constructed that uses
space. See Section 8.4.3 for a related method.

Such elegant methods leave the impression that finding shortest paths is not very difficult, but unfortunately they do not generalize nicely to and a polyhedral . Figure 7.39 shows a simple example in which the shortest path does not have to cross a vertex of . It may cross anywhere in the interior of an edge; therefore, it is not clear where to draw the bitangent lines that would form the shortest-path roadmap. The lower bounds for this problem are also discouraging. It was shown in [172] that the 3D shortest-path problem in a polyhedral environment is NP-hard. Most of the difficulty arises because of the precision required to represent 3D shortest paths. Therefore, efficient polynomial-time approximation algorithms exist [215,763].

Steven M LaValle 2012-04-20