Google Research

Opportunistic Package Delivery as a Service on Road Networks

GeoInformatica (2023)


In the new “gig” economy, a user plays the role of a consumer as well as a service provider. As a service provider, drivers travelling from a source to a destination may opportunistically pickup and drop-off packages along the way if that does not add significantly to their trip distance or time. This gives rise to a new business offering called Package Delivery as a Service (PDaaS) that brokers package pickups and deliveries at one end and connects them to drivers on the other end, thus creating an ecosystem of supply and demand. The dramatic cost savings of such a service model come from the fact that the driver is already en-route to their destination and the package delivery adds a small overhead to an already pre-planned trip. From a technical perspective, this problem introduces new technical challenges that are uncommon in the literature. The driver may want to optimise for distance or time. Furthermore, new packages arrive for delivery all the time and are assigned to various drivers continuously. This means that the algorithm has to work in an environment that is dynamic, thereby precluding most standard road network precomputation efforts. Furthermore, the number of packages that are available for delivery could be in the hundreds of thousands, which has to be quickly pruned down for the algorithm to scale. The paper proposes a variation called dual Dijkstra’s that combines a forward and a backward scan in order to find delivery options that satisfy the constraints specified by the driver. The new dual heuristic improves the standard single Dijkstra’s approach by narrowing down the search space, thus resulting in significant speed-ups over the standard algorithms. Furthermore, a combination of dual Dijkstra’s with a heuristic landmark approach results in a dramatic speed-up compared to the baseline algorithms. Experimental results show that the proposed approach can offer drivers a choice of packages to deliver under specified constraints of time or distance, and providing sub-second response time despite the complexity of the problem involved. As the number of packages in the system increases, the matchmaking process becomes easier resulting in faster response times. The scalability of the PDaaS infrastructure is demonstrated using extensive experimental results.

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