Recent trends pushing robots into unstructured environments with limited sensors have motivated considerable work on planning under uncertainty and stochastic optimal control, but these methods typically do not provide guaranteed performance. Here we consider the problem of bounding the probability of failure (defined as leaving a finite region of state space) over a finite time for stochastic nonlinear systems with continuous state. Our approach searches for exponential barrier functions that provide bounds using a variant of the classical supermartingale result. We provide a relaxation of this search to a semidefinite program, yielding an efficient algorithm that provides rigorous upper bounds on the probability of failure for the original nonlinear system. We give a number of numerical examples in both discrete and continuous time that demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach.
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