Frankfurter InformatikBerichte
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 02, 6

Minimizing finite automata is computationally hard
(2002)

Andreas Malcher
 It is known that deterministic finite automata (DFAs) can be algorithmically minimized, i.e., a DFA M can be converted to an equivalent DFA M' which has a minimal number of states. The minimization can be done efficiently [6]. On the other hand, it is known that unambiguous finite automata (UFAs) and nondeterministic finite automata (NFAs) can be algorithmically minimized too, but their minimization problems turn out to be NPcomplete and PSPACEcomplete [8]. In this paper, the time complexity of the minimization problem for two restricted types of finite automata is investigated. These automata are nearly deterministic, since they only allow a small amount of non determinism to be used. On the one hand, NFAs with a fixed finite branching are studied, i.e., the number of nondeterministic moves within every accepting computation is bounded by a fixed finite number. On the other hand, finite automata are investigated which are essentially deterministic except that there is a fixed number of different initial states which can be chosen nondeterministically. The main result is that the minimization problems for these models are computationally hard, namely NPcomplete. Hence, even the slightest extension of the deterministic model towards a nondeterministic one, e.g., allowing at most one nondeterministic move in every accepting computation or allowing two initial states instead of one, results in computationally intractable minimization problems.