A Scalable Safety Critical Control Framework for Nonlinear Systems

Thomas Gurriet, Mark Mote, Andrew Singletary, Petter Nilsson, E. Feron, Aaron D. Ames

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


There are two main approaches to safety-critical control. The first one relies on computation of control invariant sets and is presented in the first part of this work. The second approach draws from the topic of optimal control and relies on the ability to realize Model-Predictive-Controllers online to guarantee the safety of a system. In the second approach, safety is ensured at a planning stage by solving the control problem subject for some explicitly defined constraints on the state and control input. Both approaches have distinct advantages but also major drawbacks that hinder their practical effectiveness, namely scalability for the first one and computational complexity for the second. We therefore present an approach that draws from the advantages of both approaches to deliver efficient and scalable methods of ensuring safety for nonlinear dynamical systems. In particular, we show that identifying a backup control law that stabilizes the system is in fact sufficient to exploit some of the set-invariance conditions presented in the first part of this work. Indeed, one only needs to be able to numerically integrate the closed-loop dynamics of the system over a finite horizon under this backup law to compute all the information necessary for evaluating the regulation map and enforcing safety. The effect of relaxing the stabilization requirements of the backup law is also studied, and weaker but more practical safety guarantees are brought forward. We then explore the relationship between the optimality of the backup law and how conservative the resulting safety filter is. Finally, methods of selecting a safe input with varying levels of trade-off between conservatism and computational complexity are proposed and illustrated on multiple robotic systems, namely: a two-wheeled inverted pendulum (Segway), an industrial manipulator, a quadrotor, and a lower body exoskeleton.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187249-187275
Number of pages27
JournalIEEE Access
StatePublished - Sep 18 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-03-05
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank Laurent Ciarletta for his pivotal role in making this work possible. The authors would also like to thank Maegan Tucker for her valuable help with the Variable Assistance part of this work, and Terry Suh for seeding the Industrial Manipulator part of this work.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • General Computer Science
  • General Materials Science


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