Addressing the minimum fleet problem in on-demand urban mobility

Information and communication technologies have opened the way to new solutions for urban mobility that provide better ways to match individuals with on-demand vehicles. However, a fundamental unsolved problem is how best to size and operate a fleet of vehicles, given a certain demand for personal mobility. Previous studies1,2,3,4,5 either do not provide a scalable solution or require changes in human attitudes towards mobility. Here we provide a network-based solution to the following ‘minimum fleet problem’, given a collection of trips (specified by origin, destination and start time), of how to determine the minimum number of vehicles needed to serve all the trips without incurring any delay to the passengers. By introducing the notion of a ‘vehicle-sharing network’, we present an optimal computationally efficient solution to the problem, as well as a nearly optimal solution amenable to real-time implementation. We test both solutions on a dataset of 150 million taxi trips taken in the city of New York over one year6. The real-time implementation of the method with near-optimal service levels allows a 30 per cent reduction in fleet size compared to current taxi operation. Although constraints on driver availability and the existence of abnormal trip demands may lead to a relatively larger optimal value for the fleet size than that predicted here, the fleet size remains robust for a wide range of variations in historical trip demand. These predicted reductions in fleet size follow directly from a reorganization of taxi dispatching that could be implemented with a simple urban app; they do not assume ride sharing7,8,9, nor require changes to regulations, business models, or human attitudes towards mobility to become effective. Our results could become even more relevant in the years ahead as fleets of networked, self-driving cars become commonplace10,11,12,13,14.


Addressing the minimum fleet problem in on-demand urban mobility
M. M. Vazifeh, P. Santi, G. Resta, S. H. Strogatz & C. Ratti
Nature volume 557, pages 534–538 (2018)


Predicting the temporal activity patterns of new venues

Estimating revenue and business demand of a newly opened venue is paramount as these early stages often involve critical decisions such as first rounds of staffing and resource allocation. Traditionally, this estimation has been performed through coarse-grained measures such as observing numbers in local venues or venues at similar places (e.g., coffee shops around another station in the same city). The advent of crowdsourced data from devices and services carried by individuals on a daily basis has opened up the possibility of performing better predictions of temporal visitation patterns for locations and venues. In this paper, using mobility data from Foursquare, a location-centric platform, we treat venue categories as proxies for urban activities and analyze how they become popular over time. The main contribution of this work is a prediction framework able to use characteristic temporal signatures of places together with k-nearest neighbor metrics capturing similarities among urban regions, to forecast weekly popularity dynamics of a new venue establishment in a city neighborhood. We further show how we are able to forecast the popularity of the new venue after one month following its opening by using locality and temporal similarity as features. For the evaluation of our approach we focus on London. We show that temporally similar areas of the city can be successfully used as inputs of predictions of the visit patterns of new venues, with an improvement of 41% compared to a random selection of wards as a training set for the prediction task. We apply these concepts of temporally similar areas and locality to the real-time predictions related to new venues and show that these features can effectively be used to predict the future trends of a venue. Our findings have the potential to impact the design of location-based technologies and decisions made by new business owners.


Predicting the temporal activity patterns of new venues
Krittika D’Silva, Anastasios Noulas, Mirco Musolesi, Cecilia Mascolo and Max Sklar
EPJ Data Science20187:13


Cooperative Object Transport in Multi-Robot Systems: A Review of the State-of-the-Art

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in designing multi-robot systems (hereafter MRSs) to provide cost effective, fault-tolerant and reliable solutions to a variety of automated applications. Here, we review recent advancements in MRSs specifically designed for cooperative object transport, which requires the members of MRSs to coordinate their actions to transport objects from a starting position to a final destination. To achieve cooperative object transport, a wide range of transport, coordination and control strategies have been proposed. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive summary for this relatively heterogeneous and fast-growing body of scientific literature. While distilling the information, we purposefully avoid using hierarchical dichotomies, which have been traditionally used in the field of MRSs. Instead, we employ a coarse-grain approach by classifying each study based on the transport strategy used; pushing-only, grasping and caging. We identify key design constraints that may be shared among these studies despite considerable differences in their design methods. In the end, we discuss several open challenges and possible directions for future work to improve the performance of the current MRSs. Overall, we hope to increasethe visibility and accessibility of the excellent studies in the field and provide a framework that helps the reader to navigate through them more effectively.



Cooperative Object Transport in Multi-Robot Systems: A Review of the State-of-the-Art

Elio Tuci, Muhanad H. M. Alkilabi and Otar Akanyeti

Front. Robot. AI, 25 May 2018 |


The Human Takeover: A Call for a Venture into an Existential Opportunity

We propose a venture into an existential opportunity for establishing a world ‘good enough’ for humans to live in. Defining an existential opportunity as the converse of an existential risk—that is, a development that promises to dramatically improve the future of humanity—we argue that one such opportunity is available and should be explored now. The opportunity resides in the moment of transition of the Internet—from mediating information to mediating distributed direct governance in the sense of self-organization. The Internet of tomorrow will mediate the execution of contracts, transactions, public interventions and all other change-establishing events more reliably and more synergistically than any other technology or institution. It will become a distributed, synthetically intelligent agent in itself. This transition must not be just observed, or exploited instrumentally: it must be ventured into and seized on behalf of entire humanity. We envision a configuration of three kinds of cognitive system—the human mind, social systems and the emerging synthetic intelligence—serving to augment the autonomy of the first from the ‘programming’ imposed by the second. Our proposition is grounded in a detailed analysis of the manner in which the socio-econo-political system has evolved into a powerful control mechanism that subsumes human minds, steers their will and automates their thinking. We see the venture into the existential opportunity described here as aiming at the global dissolution of the core reason of that programming’s effectiveness—the critical dependence of the continuity of human lives on the coherence of the socially constructed personas they ‘wear.’ Thus, we oppose the popular prediction of the upcoming, ‘dreadful AI takeover’ with a call for action: instead of worrying that Artificial Intelligence will soon come to dominate and govern the human world, let us think of how it could help the human being to finally be able to do it.


The Human Takeover: A Call for a Venture into an Existential Opportunity
Marta Lenartowicz, David R. Weinbaum , Francis Heylighen, Kate Kingsbury and Tjorven Harmsen

Information 2018, 9(5), 113;


When Robots Get Bored and Invent Team Sports: A More Suitable Test than the Turing Test?

Increasingly, the Turing test—which is used to show that artificial intelligence has achieved human-level intelligence—is being regarded as an insufficient indicator of human-level intelligence. This essay extends arguments that embodied intelligence is required for human-level intelligence, and proposes a more suitable test for determining human-level intelligence: the invention of team sports by humanoid robots. The test is preferred because team sport activity is easily identified, uniquely human, and is suggested to emerge in basic, controllable conditions. To expect humanoid robots to self-organize, or invent, team sport as a function of human-level artificial intelligence, the following necessary conditions are proposed: humanoid robots must have the capacity to participate in cooperative-competitive interactions, instilled by algorithms for resource acquisition; they must possess or acquire sufficient stores of energetic resources that permit leisure time, thus reducing competition for scarce resources and increasing cooperative tendencies; and they must possess a heterogeneous range of energetic capacities. When present, these factors allow robot collectives to spontaneously invent team sport activities and thereby demonstrate one fundamental indicator of human-level intelligence.


When Robots Get Bored and Invent Team Sports: A More Suitable Test than the Turing Test?
Hugh Trenchard

Information 2018, 9(5), 118;