Foundations of Autonomous Systems (CSCI 5854)

General information:

  • Instructor: Majid Zamani

  • During fall semesters

  • Days: Tuesdays and Thursdays

  • Time: 8:00 AM – 9:15 AM

  • Room: ECCR 105

  • Office hours: Mondays, 11:00-12:00, in-person at ECCE 1B09 or remotely via Zoom

Course Description:

This course will provide an end-to-end overview of different topics involved in designing or analyzing autonomous systems. It begins with explaining the core structure in any autonomous system which includes sensors, actuators, and potentially communication networks. Then, it will cover different formal modeling frameworks used for autonomous systems including state-space representations (difference equations), hybrid automata, and in general labeled transition systems. It also discusses different ways of formally modeling properties of interest for such systems. Examples of such properties include stability, invariance, reachability, and temporal logic properties.

After students get familiar with formally modeling autonomous systems and their properties of interest, the course will cover different techniques on the verification of such systems including Lyapunov functions, reachability, barrier certificates, and potentially model checking. Finally, the course will introduce students with several techniques (e.g. reactive synthesis) on designing controllers (or policies) enforcing properties of interest over the original autonomous systems.


  • Basic principles of embedded systems design and some knowledge of differential equations, linear algebra, and calculus.

List of principal topics includes:

  • Formal modeling of autonomous systems:

    • State-space modeling framework

    • Automata

    • Labeled transitions systems

  • Formal pecifications:

    • Stability

    • Invariance

    • Reachability

    • Temporal logic

  • Formal analysis:

    • Lyapunov theory

    • Reachability analysis

    • Barrier certificate

    • Model checking

  • Formal synthesis:

    • Stabilizing feedback controllers

    • Abstraction-based synthesis

    • Control barrier certificate

    • Sampling-based motion planning

Lecture Notes:

  • All lecture notes and videos will be posted on Canvas. Your identikey is needed for signing in.

Recommended textbooks:

  • E. A. Lee and S. A. Seshia. Introduction to Embedded Systems: A Cyber-Physical Systems Approach. MIT Press, 2017.

  • C. Belta, B. Yordanov, and E. Göl. Formal Methods for Discrete-Time Dynamical Systems. Springer International Publishing, 2017.

  • C. Baier and J. P. Katoen. Principles of Model Checking. MIT Press, 2008.

  • R. Alur. Principles of Cyber-Physical Systems. MIT Press, 2015.

  • P. Tabuada. Verification and Control of Hybrid Systems. Springer US, 2009.

Tentative grading:

  • Assignments: 40%

  • Midterm exam: 30%

  • Final project: 30%

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