Autonomous Robots

, Volume 42, Issue 7, pp 1427–1442 | Cite as

Routing autonomous vehicles in congested transportation networks: structural properties and coordination algorithms

  • Federico RossiEmail author
  • Rick Zhang
  • Yousef Hindy
  • Marco PavoneEmail author
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Issue on Robotics: Science and Systems 2016


This paper considers the problem of routing and rebalancing a shared fleet of autonomous (i.e., self-driving) vehicles providing on-demand mobility within a capacitated transportation network, where congestion might disrupt throughput. We model the problem within a network flow framework and show that under relatively mild assumptions the rebalancing vehicles, if properly coordinated, do not lead to an increase in congestion (in stark contrast to common belief). From an algorithmic standpoint, such theoretical insight suggests that the problems of routing customers and rebalancing vehicles can be decoupled, which leads to a computationally-efficient routing and rebalancing algorithm for the autonomous vehicles. Numerical experiments and case studies corroborate our theoretical insights and show that the proposed algorithm outperforms state-of-the-art point-to-point methods by avoiding excess congestion on the road. Collectively, this paper provides a rigorous approach to the problem of congestion-aware, system-wide coordination of autonomously driving vehicles, and to the characterization of the sustainability of such robotic systems.


Self-driving cars Intelligent transportation systems Vehicle routing Autonomous systems 



The authors would like to thank Zachary Sunberg for his analysis on the road network symmetry of U.S. cities.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (mp4 10550 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Aeronautics and AstronauticsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Zoox Inc.Menlo ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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