FlexPool: A Distributed Model-Free Deep Reinforcement Learning Algorithm for Joint Passengers Goods Transportation

by   Kaushik Manchella, et al.

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 a defined dynamics model of the transportation system environment, this paper considers a model-free approach that has been demonstrated to be adaptable to new or erratic environment dynamics. We propose FlexPool, 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 proposed algorithm pools passengers for a ride-sharing service and delivers goods using a multi-hop transit method. These flexibilities decrease the fleet's operational cost and environmental footprint while maintaining service levels for passengers and goods. Through simulations on a realistic multi-agent urban mobility platform, we demonstrate that FlexPool outperforms other model-free settings in serving the demands from passengers goods. FlexPool achieves 30 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.


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