MOVI: A Model-Free Approach To Dynamic Fleet Management

Takuma Oda DeNA Co., Ltd., USA
Carlee Joewong Carnegie Mellon University, USA


Modern vehicle fleets, e.g., for ridesharing platforms and taxi companies, can reduce passengers' waiting times by proactively dispatching vehicles to locations where pickup requests are anticipated in the future. Yet it is unclear how to best do this: optimal dispatching requires optimizing over several sources of uncertainty, including vehicles' travel times to their dispatched locations, as well as coordinating between vehicles so that they do not attempt to pick up the same passenger. While prior works have developed models for this uncertainty and used them to optimize dispatch policies, in this work we introduce a model-free approach. Specifically, we propose MOVI, a Deep Q-network (DQN)-based framework that directly learns the optimal vehicle dispatch policy. Since DQNs scale poorly with a large number of possible dispatches, we streamline our DQN training and suppose that each individual vehicle independently learns its own optimal policy, ensuring scalability at the cost of less coordination between vehicles. We then formulate a centralized receding-horizon control (RHC) policy to compare with our DQN policies. To compare these policies, we design and build MOVI as a large-scale realistic simulator based on 15 million taxi trip records that simulates policy-agnostic responses to dispatch decisions. We show that the DQN dispatch policy reduces the number of unserviced requests by 76% compared to without dispatch and 20% compared to the RHC approach, emphasizing the benefits of a model-free approach and suggesting that there is limited value to coordinating vehicle actions. This finding may help to explain the success of ridesharing platforms, for which drivers make individual decisions.

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