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Enforcing robust control guarantees within neural network policies

Priya Donti · Melrose Roderick · Mahyar Fazlyab · Zico Kolter


Keywords: [ differentiable optimization ] [ robust control ] [ reinforcement learning ]


When designing controllers for safety-critical systems, practitioners often face a challenging tradeoff between robustness and performance. While robust control methods provide rigorous guarantees on system stability under certain worst-case disturbances, they often yield simple controllers that perform poorly in the average (non-worst) case. In contrast, nonlinear control methods trained using deep learning have achieved state-of-the-art performance on many control tasks, but often lack robustness guarantees. In this paper, we propose a technique that combines the strengths of these two approaches: constructing a generic nonlinear control policy class, parameterized by neural networks, that nonetheless enforces the same provable robustness criteria as robust control. Specifically, our approach entails integrating custom convex-optimization-based projection layers into a neural network-based policy. We demonstrate the power of this approach on several domains, improving in average-case performance over existing robust control methods and in worst-case stability over (non-robust) deep RL methods.

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