Learning a Better Control Barrier Function

by   Bolun Dai, et al.

Control barrier functions (CBF) are widely used in safety-critical controllers. However, the construction of valid CBFs is well known to be challenging, especially for nonlinear or non-convex constraints and high relative degree systems. On the other hand, finding a conservative CBF that only recovers a portion of the true safe set is usually possible. In this work, starting from a "conservative" handcrafted control barrier function (HCBF), we develop a method to find a control barrier function that recovers a reasonably larger portion of the safe set. Using a different approach, by incorporating the hard constraints into an optimal control problem, e.g., MPC, we can safely generate solutions within the true safe set. Nevertheless, such an approach is usually computationally expensive and may not lend itself to real-time implementations. We propose to combine the two methods. During training, we utilize MPC to collect safe trajectory data. Thereafter, we train a neural network to estimate the difference between the HCBF and the CBF that recovers a closer solution to the true safe set. Using the proposed approach, we can generate a safe controller that is less conservative and computationally efficient. We validate our approach on three systems: a second-order integrator, ball-on-beam, and unicycle.


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