Distributionally Robust Linear Quadratic Control

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Bahar Taskesen, Dan Iancu, Çağıl Koçyiğit, Daniel Kuhn


Linear-Quadratic-Gaussian (LQG) control is a fundamental control paradigm that is studied in various fields such as engineering, computer science, economics, and neuroscience. It involves controlling a system with linear dynamics and imperfect observations, subject to additive noise, with the goal of minimizing a quadratic cost function for the state and control variables. In this work, we consider a generalization of the discrete-time, finite-horizon LQG problem, where the noise distributions are unknown and belong to Wasserstein ambiguity sets centered at nominal (Gaussian) distributions. The objective is to minimize a worst-case cost across all distributions in the ambiguity set, including non-Gaussian distributions. Despite the added complexity, we prove that a control policy that is linear in the observations is optimal for this problem, as in the classic LQG problem. We propose a numerical solution method that efficiently characterizes this optimal control policy. Our method uses the Frank-Wolfe algorithm to identify the least-favorable distributions within the Wasserstein ambiguity sets and computes the controller's optimal policy using Kalman filter estimation under these distributions.