Run time assurance for safety-critical systems: an introduction to safety filtering approaches for complex control systems

K. Hobbs, M. Mote, M. Abate, S. Coogan, E. Feron
IEEE Control Systems Magazine, 2023


Run Time Assurance (RTA) Systems are online verification mechanisms that filter an unverified primary controller output to ensure system safety. The primary control may come from a human operator, an advanced control approach, or an autonomous control approach that cannot be verified to the same level as simpler control systems designs. The critical feature of RTA systems is their ability to alter unsafe control inputs explicitly to assure safety. In many cases, RTA systems can functionally be described as containing a monitor that watches the state of the system and output of a primary controller, and a backup controller that replaces or modifies control input when necessary to assure safety. An important quality of an RTA system is that the assurance mechanism is constructed in a way that is entirely agnostic to the underlying structure of the primary controller. By effectively decoupling the enforcement of safety constraints from performance-related objectives, RTA offers a number of useful advantages over traditional (offline) verification. This article provides a tutorial on developing RTA systems.

This work was supported in part by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under grant FA9550-19-1-0015 and by the NSF under grants #1749357.