Actor-Critic Reinforcement Learning for Control with Stability Guarantee

Minghao Han, Lixian Zhang, Jun Wang, Wei Pan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Reinforcement Learning (RL) and its integration with deep learning have achieved impressive performance in various robotic control tasks, ranging from motion planning and navigation to end-to-end visual manipulation. However, stability is not guaranteed in model-free RL by solely using data. From a control-theoretic perspective, stability is the most important property for any control system, since it is closely related to safety, robustness, and reliability of robotic systems. In this letter, we propose an actor-critic RL framework for control which can guarantee closed-loop stability by employing the classic Lyapunov's method in control theory. First of all, a data-based stability theorem is proposed for stochastic nonlinear systems modeled by Markov decision process. Then we show that the stability condition could be exploited as the critic in the actor-critic RL to learn a controller/policy. At last, the effectiveness of our approach is evaluated on several well-known 3-dimensional robot control tasks and a synthetic biology gene network tracking task in three different popular physics simulation platforms. As an empirical evaluation on the advantage of stability, we show that the learned policies can enable the systems to recover to the equilibrium or way-points when interfered by uncertainties such as system parametric variations and external disturbances to a certain extent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6217-6224
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • lyapunov's method
  • Reinforcement learning
  • stability


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