This paper focuses on inverse reinforcement learning (IRL) for autonomous robot navigation using semantic observations. The objective is to infer a cost function that explains demonstrated behavior while relying only on the expert’s observations and state-control trajectory. We develop a map en- coder, which infers semantic class probabilities from the observation sequence, and a cost encoder, defined as deep neural network over the semantic features. Since the expert cost is not directly observable, the representation parameters can only be optimized by differentiating the error between demonstrated controls and a control policy computed from the cost estimate. The error is optimized using a closed-form subgradient computed only over a subset of promising states via a motion planning algorithm. We show that our approach learns to follow traffic rules in the autonomous driving CARLA simulator by relying on semantic observations of cars, sidewalks and road lanes.