EECI 2012: Introduction: Protocol-Based Control Systems

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This lecture provides an introduction to specification, design and verification of distributed embedded systems. Networked control systems are emerging as a common architecture for embedded and autonomous systems, especially in applications where higher levels of decision making are required. Unlike traditional control systems, where communication and computational aspects are often ignored, networked control systems require an integration of techniques from computer science, communications and controls. An architecture for such systems is beginning to emerge, in which issues such as optimization-based estimation and control, packet-based control theory, and asynchronous computational models play a more central role. A key challenge in designing such systems is specification, design and verification of control protocols for decision-making and control in networked control systems. We describe two specific examples to motivate this course. The first is Alice, an autonomous vehicle built by Caltech undergraduates to participate in the 2005 and 2007 DARPA Grand Challenges. Starting with the high level architecture, we describe some of the design choices that were made in the networked control systems (NCS) architecture and was as summarize the basic operation of the major software modules that are used to implement Alice's autonomous control system. The second example is RoboFlag, a team-on-team competition involving robots and humans playing capture the flag.

Lecture Materials

Further Reading

  • Control in an Information Rich World, R. M. Murray (ed). SIAM, 2003. This book provides a high level description of some of the research challenges and opportunities in the field of control. The executive summary (Section 1) and the application sections on "Information and Networks" and "Robotics and Intelligent Machines" (Section 3.2 and 3.3) are particularly relevant.

  • The RoboFlag Competition, Raffaello D'Andrea and Richard M. Murray. 2003 American Control Conference. This paper gives an overview of the RoboFlag competition and some of the research challenges that it motivates.

Additional Information