We study the multi-agent Bayesian optimization (BO) problem, where multiple agents maximize a black-box function via iterative queries. We focus on Entropy Search (ES), a sample-efficient BO algorithm that selects queries to maximize the mutual information about the maximum of the black-box function. One of the main challenges of ES is that calculating the mutual information requires computationally-costly approximation techniques. For multi-agent BO problems, the computational cost of ES is exponential in the number of agents. To address this challenge, we propose the Gaussian Max-value Entropy Search, a multi-agent BO algorithm with favorable sample and computational efficiency. The key to our idea is to use a normal distribution to approximate the function maximum and calculate its mutual information accordingly. The resulting approximation allows queries to be cast as the solution of a closed-form optimization problem which, in turn, can be solved via a modified gradient ascent algorithm and scaled to a large number of agents. We demonstrate the effectiveness of Gaussian max-value Entropy Search through numerical experiments on standard test functions and real-robot experiments on the source-seeking problem. Results show that the proposed algorithm outperforms the multi-agent BO baselines in the numerical experiments and can stably seek the source with a limited number of noisy observations on real robots.
Safe reinforcement learning (RL) that solves constraint-satisfactory policies provides a promising way to the broader safety-critical applications of RL in real-world problems such as robotics. Among all safe RL approaches, model-based methods reduce training time violations further due to their high sample efficiency. However, lacking safety robustness against the model uncertainties remains an issue in safe model-based RL, especially in training time safety. In this paper, we propose a distributional reachability certificate (DRC) and its Bellman equation to address model uncertainties and characterize robust persistently safe states. Furthermore, we build a safe RL framework to resolve constraints required by the DRC and its corresponding shield policy. We also devise a line search method to maintain safety and reach higher returns simultaneously while leveraging the shield policy. Comprehensive experiments on classical benchmarks such as constrained tracking and navigation indicate that the proposed algorithm achieves comparable returns with much fewer constraint violations during training.
Energy-function-based safety certificates can provide provable safety guarantees for the safe control tasks of complex robotic systems. However, all recent studies about learning-based energy function synthesis only consider the feasibility, which might cause over-conservativeness and result in less efficient controllers. In this work, we proposed the magnitude regularization technique to improve the efficiency of safe controllers by reducing the conservativeness inside the energy function while keeping the promising provable safety guarantees. Specifically, we quantify the conservativeness by the magnitude of the energy function, and we reduce the conservativeness by adding a magnitude regularization term to the synthesis loss. We propose the SafeMR algorithm that uses reinforcement learning (RL) for the synthesis to unify the learning processes of safe controllers and energy functions. Experimental results show that the proposed method does reduce the conservativeness of the energy functions and outperforms the baselines in terms of the controller efficiency while guaranteeing safety.
Constrained Reinforcement Learning (CRL) has gained significant interest recently, since the satisfaction of safety constraints is critical for real world problems. However, existing CRL methods constraining discounted cumulative costs generally lack rigorous definition and guarantee of safety. On the other hand, in the safe control research, safety is defined as persistently satisfying certain state constraints. Such persistent safety is possible only on a subset of the state space, called feasible set, where an optimal largest feasible set exists for a given environment. Recent studies incorporating safe control with CRL using energy-based methods such as control barrier function (CBF), safety index (SI) leverage prior conservative estimation of feasible sets, which harms performance of the learned policy. To deal with this problem, this paper proposes a reachability CRL (RCRL) method by using reachability analysis to characterize the largest feasible sets. We characterize the feasible set by the established self-consistency condition, then a safety value function can be learned and used as constraints in CRL. We also use the multi-time scale stochastic approximation theory to prove that the proposed algorithm converges to a local optimum, where the largest feasible set can be guaranteed. Empirical results on different benchmarks such as safe-control-gym and Safety-Gym validate the learned feasible set, the performance in optimal criteria, and constraint satisfaction of RCRL, compared to state-of-the-art CRL baselines.
In the trial-and-error mechanism of reinforcement learning (RL), a notorious contradiction arises when we expect to learn a safe policy: how to learn a safe policy without enough data and prior model about the dangerous region? Existing methods mostly use the posterior penalty for dangerous actions, which means that the agent is not penalized until experiencing danger. This fact causes that the agent cannot learn a zero-violation policy even after convergence. Otherwise, it would not receive any penalty and lose the knowledge about danger. In this paper, we propose the safe set actor-critic (SSAC) algorithm, which confines the policy update using safety-oriented energy functions, or the safety indexes. The safety index is designed to increase rapidly for potentially dangerous actions, which allows us to locate the safe set on the action space, or the control safe set. Therefore, we can identify the dangerous actions prior to taking them, and further obtain a zero constraint-violation policy after convergence.We claim that we can learn the energy function in a model-free manner similar to learning a value function. By using the energy function transition as the constraint objective, we formulate a constrained RL problem. We prove that our Lagrangian-based solutions make sure that the learned policy will converge to the constrained optimum under some assumptions. The proposed algorithm is evaluated on both the complex simulation environments and a hardware-in-loop (HIL) experiment with a real controller from the autonomous vehicle. Experimental results suggest that the converged policy in all environments achieves zero constraint violation and comparable performance with model-based baselines.
Safety is the major consideration in controlling complex dynamical systems using reinforcement learning (RL), where the safety certificate can provide provable safety guarantee. A valid safety certificate is an energy function indicating that safe states are with low energy, and there exists a corresponding safe control policy that allows the energy function to always dissipate. The safety certificate and the safe control policy are closely related to each other and both challenging to synthesize. Therefore, existing learning-based studies treat either of them as prior knowledge to learn the other, which limits their applicability with general unknown dynamics. This paper proposes a novel approach that simultaneously synthesizes the energy-function-based safety certificate and learns the safe control policy with CRL. We do not rely on prior knowledge about either an available model-based controller or a perfect safety certificate. In particular, we formulate a loss function to optimize the safety certificate parameters by minimizing the occurrence of energy increases. By adding this optimization procedure as an outer loop to the Lagrangian-based constrained reinforcement learning (CRL), we jointly update the policy and safety certificate parameters and prove that they will converge to their respective local optima, the optimal safe policy and a valid safety certificate. We evaluate our algorithms on multiple safety-critical benchmark environments. The results show that the proposed algorithm learns provably safe policies with no constraint violation. The validity or feasibility of synthesized safety certificate is also verified numerically.
The safety constraints commonly used by existing safe reinforcement learning (RL) methods are defined only on expectation of initial states, but allow each certain state to be unsafe, which is unsatisfying for real-world safety-critical tasks. In this paper, we introduce the feasible actor-critic (FAC) algorithm, which is the first model-free constrained RL method that considers statewise safety, e.g, safety for each initial state. We claim that some states are inherently unsafe no matter what policy we choose, while for other states there exist policies ensuring safety, where we say such states and policies are feasible. By constructing a statewise Lagrange function available on RL sampling and adopting an additional neural network to approximate the statewise Lagrange multiplier, we manage to obtain the optimal feasible policy which ensures safety for each feasible state and the safest possible policy for infeasible states. Furthermore, the trained multiplier net can indicate whether a given state is feasible or not through the statewise complementary slackness condition. We provide theoretical guarantees that FAC outperforms previous expectation-based constrained RL methods in terms of both constraint satisfaction and reward optimization. Experimental results on both robot locomotive tasks and safe exploration tasks verify the safety enhancement and feasibility interpretation of the proposed method.
Decision and control are two of the core functionalities of high-level automated vehicles. Current mainstream methods, such as functionality decomposition or end-to-end reinforcement learning (RL), either suffer high time complexity or poor interpretability and limited safety performance in real-world complex autonomous driving tasks. In this paper, we present an interpretable and efficient decision and control framework for automated vehicles, which decomposes the driving task into multi-path planning and optimal tracking that are structured hierarchically. First, the multi-path planning is to generate several paths only considering static constraints. Then, the optimal tracking is designed to track the optimal path while considering the dynamic obstacles. To that end, in theory, we formulate a constrained optimal control problem (OCP) for each candidate path, optimize them separately and choose the one with the best tracking performance to follow. More importantly, we propose a model-based reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm, which is served as an approximate constrained OCP solver, to unload the heavy computation by the paradigm of offline training and online application. Specifically, the OCPs for all paths are considered together to construct a multi-task RL problem and then solved offline by our algorithm into value and policy networks, for real-time online path selecting and tracking respectively. We verify our framework in both simulation and the real world. Results show that our method has better online computing efficiency and driving performance including traffic efficiency and safety compared with baseline methods. In addition, it yields great interpretability and adaptability among different driving tasks. The real road test also suggests that it is applicable in complicated traffic scenarios without even tuning.
Model information can be used to predict future trajectories, so it has huge potential to avoid dangerous region when implementing reinforcement learning (RL) on real-world tasks, like autonomous driving. However, existing studies mostly use model-free constrained RL, which causes inevitable constraint violations. This paper proposes a model-based feasibility enhancement technique of constrained RL, which enhances the feasibility of policy using generalized control barrier function (GCBF) defined on the distance to constraint boundary. By using the model information, the policy can be optimized safely without violating actual safety constraints, and the sample efficiency is increased. The major difficulty of infeasibility in solving the constrained policy gradient is handled by an adaptive coefficient mechanism. We evaluate the proposed method in both simulations and real vehicle experiments in a complex autonomous driving collision avoidance task. The proposed method achieves up to four times fewer constraint violations and converges 3.36 times faster than baseline constrained RL approaches.