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# Learning Stochastic Shortest Path with Linear Function Approximation

*Proceedings of the 39th International Conference on Machine Learning*, PMLR 162:15584-15629, 2022.

#### Abstract

We study the stochastic shortest path (SSP) problem in reinforcement learning with linear function approximation, where the transition kernel is represented as a linear mixture of unknown models. We call this class of SSP problems as linear mixture SSPs. We propose a novel algorithm with Hoeffding-type confidence sets for learning the linear mixture SSP, which can attain an $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(d B_{\star}^{1.5}\sqrt{K/c_{\min}})$ regret. Here $K$ is the number of episodes, $d$ is the dimension of the feature mapping in the mixture model, $B_{\star}$ bounds the expected cumulative cost of the optimal policy, and $c_{\min}>0$ is the lower bound of the cost function. Our algorithm also applies to the case when $c_{\min} = 0$, and an $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(K^{2/3})$ regret is guaranteed. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first algorithm with a sublinear regret guarantee for learning linear mixture SSP. Moreover, we design a refined Bernstein-type confidence set and propose an improved algorithm, which provably achieves an $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(d B_{\star}\sqrt{K/c_{\min}})$ regret. In complement to the regret upper bounds, we also prove a lower bound of $\Omega(dB_{\star} \sqrt{K})$. Hence, our improved algorithm matches the lower bound up to a $1/\sqrt{c_{\min}}$ factor and poly-logarithmic factors, achieving a near-optimal regret guarantee.