Professor Albert Cheng Receives $400K, 3-Year NSF Award to Analyze and Certify Real-Time Safety-Critical Computerized Controllers

Professor Albert Cheng Receives $400K, 3-Year NSF Award to Analyze and Certify Real-Time Safety-Critical Computerized Controllers
Applications in Aerospace, Medicine, Communication and Space Exploration

Professor Albert M. K. Cheng received a $400K, three-year NSF award to analyze and certify real-time safety-critical computerized controllers. The project will develop a framework for accurate response time analysis and energy-aware scheduling of Functional Reactive Systems (FRS) with the goal of improving their performance and enhancing their safety. An FRS consists of embedded controllers implemented in a functional reactive programming (FRP) language.

The use of sophisticated digital systems to control complex physical components in real-time has grown at a rapid pace. Examples include automobile adaptive braking, industrial robotic assembly, medical pacemakers, autonomous vehicular travel, remote surgery, physical manipulation of nano-structures, and space exploration. Their architectures range from traditional stand-alone systems to highly-networked cyber-physical systems.

Since all these applications interact directly with the physical world and often have humans in the loop, their physical safety must be ensured. The correctness of these safety-critical systems depends not only on the actions they generate, but also on the time at which these actions occur.

The controller may consist of a single control component or a network of distributed control components, each running on single or multi-core processors. The response time of the embedded controller has a direct impact on the safety of the entire physical system. However, accurate response time analysis of FRS remains a largely unexplored problem.

While there are limited domain-specific studies that provide basic schedulability analysis using approximate bounds on the response time of the transactional model used in implementing a FRS, they do not provide the exact timing characterization needed to guarantee satisfaction of the timing constraints imposed on the execution of the embedded controller. Hence, the need for a new analysis and scheduling framework.

This project evaluates the impact of this framework on physical system safety and performance using two applications that will require integrating the results of all the research activities: automotive systems and avionics. Determining actual response times of embedded controllers implemented as FRPs will be a technical milestone. Verifiably showing how these scheduling techniques enhance physical system safety and performance will be another.

The planned research activities will generate a variety of research papers and hardware/software tools addressing the aspects of the project that fall within the established subdisciplines of Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and related fields. By improving the safety and performance of embedded control systems while reducing the cost of their implementation in domains such as aerospace, medicine, communication, automotive, nano-fabrication, industrial processing, and space exploration, this project has broad societal impact.