Provable Safe Reinforcement Learning with Binary Feedback
Proceedings of The 26th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, PMLR 206:10871-10900, 2023.
Safety is a crucial necessity in many applications of reinforcement learning (RL), whether robotic, automotive, or medical. Many existing approaches to safe RL rely on receiving numeric safety feedback, but in many cases this feedback can only take binary values; that is, whether an action in a given state is safe or unsafe. This is particularly true when feedback comes from human experts. We therefore consider the problem of provable safe RL when given access to an offline oracle providing binary feedback on the safety of state, action pairs. We provide a novel meta algorithm, SABRE, which can be applied to any MDP setting given access to a blackbox PAC RL algorithm for that setting. SABRE applies concepts from active learning to reinforcement learning to provably control the number of queries to the safety oracle. SABRE works by iteratively exploring the state space to find regions where the agent is currently uncertain about safety. Our main theoretical results shows that, under appropriate technical assumptions, SABRE never takes unsafe actions during training, and is guaranteed to return a near-optimal safe policy with high probability. We provide a discussion of how our meta-algorithm may be applied to various settings studied in both theoretical and empirical frameworks.