Now, MIT engineers have developed a general design tool for roboticists to use as a sort of automated recipe for success. Each of these robotic systems is a product of an ad hoc design process specific to that particular system. Autonomous robots have come a long way since the fastidious Roomba. Dawson and Fan built on recent advances in autodiff programming to develop a general-purpose optimization tool for autonomous robotic systems. “Our goal is to empower people to build better robots,” Dawson says.