Deep reinforcement learning (DRL) is an area of machine learning that combines a deep learning approach and reinforcement learning (RL). However, there seem to be few studies that analyze the latest DRL algorithms on real-world powertrain control problems. Meanwhile, the boost control of a variable geometry turbocharger (VGT)-equipped diesel engine is difficult mainly due to its strong coupling with an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system and large lag, resulting from time delay and hysteresis between the input and output dynamics of the engine’s gas exchange system. In this context, one of the latest model-free DRL algorithms, the deep deterministic policy gradient (DDPG) algorithm, was built in this paper to develop and finally form a strategy to track the target boost pressure under transient driving cycles. Using a fine-tuned proportion integration differentiation (PID) controller as a benchmark, the results show that the control performance based on the proposed DDPG algorithm can achieve a good transient control performance from scratch by autonomously learning the interaction with the environment, without relying on model supervision or complete environment models. In addition, the proposed strategy is able to adapt to the changing environment and hardware aging over time by adaptively tuning the algorithm in a self-learning manner on-line, making it attractive to real plant control problems whose system consistency may not be strictly guaranteed and whose environment may change over time.
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