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How to write a deterministic unit test with rclcpp?

asked 2019-05-07 01:46:04 -0600

Adrien BARRAL gravatar image

updated 2019-05-13 11:55:57 -0600


Assume I have a "filter node" that subscribe to a data, transform it, and re-publish it.

class Filter : public Node
public :
    Filter() : Node("filter", "", true)
        filteredDataPub = create_publisher<Float32>("filtered");
        dataIn = create_subscription<Float32>("dataIn", [this](Float32::SharedPtr in) {
            auto res = std::make_shared<Float32>();
            res->data = in->data * 2;

    Publisher<Float32>::SharedPtr filteredDataPub;
    Subscription<Float32>::SharedPtr dataIn;

I would like to test it.

So I Wrote the following test :

class TesterNode : public Node
    TesterNode() : Node("tester", "", true)
        filteredSubscriber =
            create_subscription<Float32>("filtered", [this](Float32::SharedPtr in) {
        dataInPublisher = create_publisher<Float32>("dataIn");
    void publishData(float data)
        auto res = std::make_shared<Float32>();
        res->data = data;
    std::promise<float> filteredPromise;

    rclcpp::Publisher<Float32>::SharedPtr dataInPublisher;
    rclcpp::Subscription<Float32>::SharedPtr filteredSubscriber;

class TestFixture : public ::testing::Test
    void SetUp()

        testerNode = std::make_shared<TesterNode>();
        ASSERT_EQ(testerNode->count_subscribers("dataIn"), static_cast<size_t>(0));
        filterNode = std::make_shared<Filter>();
        ASSERT_EQ(filterNode->count_publishers("dataIn"), static_cast<size_t>(0));


        ASSERT_FALSE(rclpp_utils::wait_for_subscriber_and_publisher(testerNode, filterNode, "dataIn", 1000ms));

    void TearDown()

    std::shared_ptr<TesterNode> testerNode;
    rclcpp::executors::SingleThreadedExecutor executor;

    std::shared_ptr<Filter> filterNode;

TEST_F(TestFixture, weCanFilterOurDatas)
    auto future = std::shared_future<float>(testerNode->filteredPromise.get_future());
    ASSERT_EQ(this->executor.spin_until_future_complete(future, std::chrono::seconds(1)),
    ASSERT_EQ(future.get(), 10.);

int main(int argc, char** argv)
    rclcpp::init(argc, argv);
    ::testing::InitGoogleTest(&argc, argv);
    auto res = RUN_ALL_TESTS();
    return res;

As you can see "TesterNode" is here to "trigger" the Filter Node, and TestFixture is the boilerplate required to instanciate both nodes.

"wait_for_subscriber_and_publisher" function is a patched version of the one we can found in system_tests. In my version the method return true if there is a timeout, and argument "to be available" is forced to TRUE. And in my version I wait for both publisher and subscriber.

bool wait_for_subscriber_and_publisher(std::shared_ptr<rclcpp::Node> publisherNode,
                    std::shared_ptr<rclcpp::Node> subscriberNode,
                    const std::string& topic_name, std::chrono::milliseconds timeout)
    using std::chrono::duration_cast;
    using std::chrono::microseconds;
    using std::chrono::steady_clock;
    auto start = steady_clock::now();
    microseconds time_slept(0);
    auto predicate = [&publisherNode, &subscriberNode, &topic_name]() -> bool {
        // the subscriber is available if the count is gt 0
        return publisherNode->count_subscribers(topic_name) > 0 &&
               subscriberNode->count_publishers(topic_name) > 0;
    while(!predicate() && time_slept < duration_cast<microseconds>(timeout))
        rclcpp::Event::SharedPtr graph_event = publisherNode->get_graph_event();
        publisherNode->wait_for_graph_change(graph_event, 5ms);
        time_slept =
            duration_cast<std::chrono::microseconds>(steady_clock::now() - start);
    int64_t time_slept_count =
                "Waited %d ms for the subscriber to connect to topic '%s'. Sub "
                "count : %d Pub count : %d\n",
                time_slept_count, topic_name.c_str(),

    return !predicate();

When I run my test several times, some times test pass, some times test doesn't pass. When test fails, this is because spin_until_future_complete return a TIMEOUT. As you can see I force my nodes to use intra process comunication (passing true as third argument of node constructor). But even if I use the ... (more)

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2 Answers

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answered 2019-05-10 13:53:20 -0600

Carl D gravatar image

One of the things I was experimenting with was making the nodes lifecycle nodes. It's not ideal because you are now forced to make things lifecycle enabled solely for the purpose of testing. However, I think the amount of extra code can be minimal.

You can see an example here:

This test just brings up two lifecycle nodes and ensures they are activated. However, you could extend from there to do your specific test after that point.

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This is the type of determinism that lifecycle nodes are designed to support.

tfoote gravatar image tfoote  ( 2019-05-10 14:58:03 -0600 )edit

Does that means that "raw nodes" are not designed to support this type of determinism ?

Adrien BARRAL gravatar image Adrien BARRAL  ( 2019-05-11 09:31:51 -0600 )edit

answered 2019-05-10 13:14:23 -0600

jacobperron gravatar image

I was able to reproduce the issue by inducing stress on my machine (e.g. stress --cpu 8). I tried also waiting for the publisher and that seemed to resolve the issue. I guess it's possible that even though the publisher can see the subscriber, the inverse is not necessarily true. Therefore, ensuring that both can see each other before executing the test will hopefully fix the problem.

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I try to wait for publisher and subscriber as you suggest, but the problem is still there... I will update the question to take your remark into account.

Adrien BARRAL gravatar image Adrien BARRAL  ( 2019-05-11 09:28:30 -0600 )edit

Could you also include the implementation of rclpp_utils::wait_for_subscriber_and_publisher?

jacobperron gravatar image jacobperron  ( 2019-05-13 11:50:20 -0600 )edit

I updated the question.

Adrien BARRAL gravatar image Adrien BARRAL  ( 2019-05-13 11:55:52 -0600 )edit

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Asked: 2019-05-07 01:46:04 -0600

Seen: 1,328 times

Last updated: May 13 '19