TACAS 2017

Our paper entitled ARES: Adaptive Receding-Horizon Synthesis of Optimal Plans has been accepted for publication at the ETAPS 23rd International Conference on Tools and Algorithms for the Construction and Analysis of Systems (TACAS).
The work was done in collaboration with Anna Lukina, Christian Hirsch, Ezio Bartocci, and Radu Grosu from Technische Universit├Ąt Wien, Austria, Junxing Yang and Scott A. Smolka from Stony Brook University, New York, and Ashish Tiwari from SRI.

We introduce ARES, an efficient approximation algorithm for generating optimal plans (action sequences) that take an initial state of a Markov Decision Process (MDP) to a state whose cost is below a specified (convergence) threshold. ARES uses Particle Swarm Optimization, with adaptive sizing for both the receding horizon and the particle swarm. Inspired by Importance Splitting, the length of the horizon and the number of particles are chosen such that at least one particle reaches a next-level state, that is, a state where the cost decreases by a required delta from the previous-level state. The level relation on states and the plans constructed by ARES implicitly define a Lyapunov function and an optimal policy, respectively, both of which could be explicitly generated by applying ARES to all states of the MDP, up to some topological equivalence relation. We also assess the effectiveness of ARES by statistically evaluating its rate of success in generating optimal plans. The ARES algorithm resulted from our desire to clarify if flying in V-formation is a flocking policy that optimizes energy conservation, clear view, and velocity alignment. That is, we were interested to see if one could find optimal plans that bring a flock from an arbitrary initial state to a state exhibiting a single connected V-formation. For flocks with 7 birds, ARES is able to generate a plan that leads to a V-formation in 95% of the 8,000 random initial configurations within 63 seconds, on average. ARES can also be easily customized into a model-predictive controller (MPC) with an adaptive receding horizon and statistical guarantees of convergence. To the best of our knowledge, our adaptive-sizing approach is the first to provide convergence guarantees in receding-horizon techniques.

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