On the ill-posedness of certain vehicular platoon control problems

Mihailo R. Jovanović, Bassam Bamieh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


We revisit the vehicular platoon control problems formulated by Levine and Athans and Melzer and Kuo. We show that in each case, these formulations are effectively ill-posed. Specifically, we demonstrate that in the first formulation, the system's stabilizability degrades as the size of the platoon increases, and that the system loses stabilizability in the limit of an infinite number of vehicles. We show that in the LQR formulation of Melzer and Kuo, the performance index is not detectable, leading to nonstabilizing optimal feedbacks. Effectively, these closed-loop systems do not have a uniform bound on the time constants of all vehicles. For the case of infinite platoons, these difficulties are easily exhibited using the theory of spatially invariant systems. We argue that the infinite case is a useful paradigm to understand large platoons. To this end, we illustrate how stabilizability and detectability degrade as functions of a finite platoon size, implying that the infinite case is an idealized limit of the large, but finite case. Finally, we show how to pose H2 and H versions of these problems where the detectability and stabilizability issues are easily seen, and suggest a well-posed alternative formulation based on penalizing absolute positions errors in addition to relative ones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1307-1321
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automatic Control
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Manuscript received November 24, 2003; revised February 25, 2005 and May 31, 2005. Recommended by Associate Editor E. Jonckheere. This work was supported in part by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under Grant FA9550-04-1-0207 and by the National Science Foundation under Grant ECS-0323814.


  • Optimal control
  • Spatially invariant systems
  • Toeplitz and circulant matrices
  • Vehicular platoons


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