Safe and Sample efficient Reinforcement Learning for Clustered Dynamic Uncertain Environments

IEEE Control System Letters, vol. 6, pp. 1928 - 1933, Dec. 2021

Hongyi Chen, Changliu Liu


This study proposes a safe and sample-efficient reinforcement learning (RL) framework to address two major challenges in developing applicable RL algorithms: satisfying safety constraints and efficiently learning with limited samples. To guarantee safety in real-world complex environments, we use the safe set algorithm (SSA) to monitor and modify the nominal controls, and evaluate SSA+RL in a clustered dynamic environment which is challenging to be solved by existing RL algorithms. However, the SSA+RL framework is usually not sample-efficient especially in reward-sparse environments, which has not been addressed in previous safe RL works. To improve the learning efficiency, we propose three techniques: (1) avoiding behaving overly conservative by adapting the SSA; (2) encouraging safe exploration using random network distillation with safety constraints; (3) improving policy convergence by treating SSA as expert demonstrations and directly learn from that. The experimental results show that our framework can achieve better safety performance compare to other safe RL methods during training and solve the task with substantially fewer episodes.

Paper: [PDF]       Code: [GitHub]      


  author={Chen, Hongyi and Liu, Changliu},
  journal={IEEE Control Systems Letters}, 
  title={Safe and Sample-Efficient Reinforcement Learning for Clustered Dynamic Environments},