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Optimize taxi driving strategies based on reinforcement learning

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The efficiency of taxi services in big cities influences not only the convenience of peoples’ travel but also urban traffic and profits for taxi drivers. To balance the demands and supplies of taxicabs, spatio-temporal knowledge mined from historical trajectories is recommended for both passengers finding an available taxicab and cabdrivers estimating the location of the next passenger. However, taxi trajectories are long sequences where single-step optimization cannot guarantee the global optimum. Taking long-term revenue as the goal, a novel method is proposed based on reinforcement learning to optimize taxi driving strategies for global profit maximization. This optimization problem is formulated as a Markov decision process for the whole taxi driving sequence. The state set in this model is defined as the taxi location and operation status. The action set includes the operation choices of empty driving, carrying passengers or waiting, and the subsequent driving behaviors. The reward, as the objective function for evaluating driving policies, is defined as the effective driving ratio that measures the total profit of a cabdriver in a working day. The optimal choice for cabdrivers at any location is learned by the Q-learning algorithm with maximum cumulative rewards. Utilizing historical trajectory data in Beijing, the experiments were conducted to test the accuracy and efficiency of the method. The results show that the method improves profits and efficiency for cabdrivers and increases the opportunities for passengers to find taxis as well. By replacing the reward function with other criteria, the method can also be used to discover and investigate novel spatial patterns. This new model is prior knowledge-free and globally optimal, which has advantages over previous methods.
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Keywords: Taxi mobility; driving strategy optimization; reinforcement learning; trajectory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System, Peking University, Beijing, China 2: Spatial Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Publication date: August 3, 2018

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