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posted on 15.12.2020, 21:57 by Kaushik Bharadwaj Manchella
The growth in online goods delivery is causing a dramatic surge in urban vehicle traffic from last-mile deliveries. On the other hand, ride-sharing has been on the rise with the success of ride-sharing platforms and increased research on using autonomous vehicle technologies for routing and matching. The future of urban mobility for passengers and goods relies on leveraging new methods that minimize operational costs and environmental footprints of transportation systems.

This paper considers combining passenger transportation with goods delivery to improve vehicle-based transportation. Even though the problem has been studied with model-based approaches where the dynamic model of the transportation system environment is defined, model-free approaches where the dynamics of the environment are learned by interaction have been demonstrated to be adaptable to new or erratic environment dynamics.

FlexPool is a distributed model-free deep reinforcement learning algorithm that jointly serves passengers \& goods workloads by learning optimal dispatch policies from its interaction with the environment. The model-free algorithm (as opposed to a model-based one) is an algorithm which does not use the transition probability distribution (and the reward function) associated with the Markov decision process (MDP).
The proposed algorithm pools passengers for a ride-sharing service and delivers goods using a multi-hop routing method. These flexibilities decrease the fleet's operational cost and environmental footprint while maintaining service levels for passengers and goods. The dispatching algorithm based on deep reinforcement learning is integrated with an efficient matching algorithm for passengers and goods. Through simulations on a realistic urban mobility platform, we demonstrate that FlexPool outperforms other model-free settings in serving the demands from passengers \& goods. FlexPool achieves 30\% higher fleet utilization and 35\% higher fuel efficiency in comparison to (i) model-free approaches where vehicles transport a combination of passengers \& goods without the use of multi-hop transit, and (ii) model-free approaches where vehicles exclusively transport either passengers or goods.


Degree Type

Master of Science


Industrial Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Vaneet Aggarwal

Additional Committee Member 2

Hua Cai

Additional Committee Member 3

Bharat Bhargava