Demand-Aware Ride-Sharing Optimization

Joint work with Qiulin Lin, Wenjie Xu, Lei Deng from CUHK, Jingzhou Sun from Tsinghua University, and Xiaojun Lin from Purdue University

Dynamic ride-sharing or ride-sharing in short, is a modern paradigm for urban mobility, where passengers with similar itineraries and time schedules share riders on short-notice. Popular ride-sharing services, such as uberPOOL and Lyftline, not only can provide convenient and cost-effective transportation to individuals, but also can create significant positive impacts on congestion and pollution. Take Manhattan as an example. The annual cost of congestion is more than $20 billion, which includes 24 million hours of time lost to sitting in traffic and an extra 500 million gallons of fuel burned. With ride-sharing, it has been shown show that 98% of the Manhattan rides currently served by over 13,000 taxis could be served with just 3,000 vehicles of capacity four, with marginal increment in the trip delay. The aggregate trip distance, an indicator of commute time and gasoline consumption, can also be reduced by more than 30%. Overall, ride-sharing offers a clear opportunity for alleviating congestion, reducing pollution, and improving transportation efficiency.

In this work, we develop a probabilistic demand-aware framework to tackle a key challenge in ride-sharing systems, namely joint optimization of request-vehicle assignment and routing for a fleet of vehicles.

The framework can maximize the expected number of passengers picked up by the fleet, given a probability distribution of future demand. A salient feature of our framework is to assign requests to vehicles in a probabilistic manner. It differentiates our work from existing ones and allows us to explore a richer design space to tackle the request-to-vehicle assignment puzzle with performance guarantee but still keeping the final solution practically implementable. The optimization problem is non-convex, combinatorial, and NPhard in nature. As a key contribution, we explore the problem structure and propose an elegant approximation of the objective function to develop a dual-subgradient heuristic. We characterize a condition under which the heuristic generates an (1 − 1/e) approximation solution. Our solution is simple and scalable, amendable for practical implementation. We carry out numerical experiments based on real-world travel request traces in Manhattan. The results show that as compared to a conventional demand-oblivious scheme, our demand-aware solution improves the total number of passenger pickups by up to 46%. We also show that joint optimization at the fleet level achieves an increment in the number of pickups by more than 19%, as compared to that each vehicle carry out optimization separately.


  • Q. Lin, L. Deng, J. Sun, and M. Chen, “Optimal Demand-Aware Ride-Sharing Routing”, in Proceedings of IEEE INFOCOM, Honolulu, HI, USA, April 16-19, 2018. [PDF]

  • Q. Lin, W. Xu, M. Chen, and X. Lin, “A Probabilistic Approach for Demand-Aware Ride-Sharing Optimization”, in Proceedings of the 20th ACM International Symposium on Mobile Ad Hoc Networking and Computing (ACM MobiHoc 2019), Catania, Italy, July 2-5, 2019. [PDF]