Sequential action control: Closed-form optimal control for nonlinear and nonsmooth systems

Alex Ansari, Todd Murphey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents a new model-based algorithm that computes predictive optimal controls on-line and in closed loop for traditionally challenging nonlinear systems. Examples demonstrate the same algorithm controlling hybrid impulsive, underactuated, and constrained systems using only high-level models and trajectory goals. Rather than iteratively optimize finite horizon control sequences to minimize an objective, this paper derives a closed-form expression for individual control actions, i.e., control values that can be applied for short duration, that optimally improve a tracking objective over a long time horizon. Under mild assumptions, actions become linear feedback laws near equilibria that permit stability analysis and performance-based parameter selection. Globally, optimal actions are guaranteed existence and uniqueness. By sequencing these actions on-line, in receding horizon fashion, the proposed controller provides a min-max constrained response to state that avoids the overhead typically required to impose control constraints. Benchmark examples show the approach can avoid local minima and outperform nonlinear optimal controllers and recent, case-specific methods in terms of tracking performance, and at speeds orders of magnitude faster than traditionally achievable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Aug 30 2017


  • Closed loop systems
  • Hybrid systems
  • Impacting systems
  • Nonlinear control systems
  • Real-time optimal control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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