Search-Space Size in Contraction Hierarchies
Contraction hierarchies are a speed-up technique to improve the performance of shortest-path computations, which works very well in practice. Despite convincing practical results, there is still a lack of theoretical explanation for this behavior.
In this paper, we develop a theoretical framework for studying search space sizes in contraction hierarchies. We prove the first bounds on the size of search spaces that depend solely on structural parameters of the input graph, that is, they are independent of the edge lengths. To achieve this, we establish a connection with the well-studied elimination game. Our bounds apply to graphs with treewidth k, and to any minor-closed class of graphs that admits small separators. For trees, we show that the maximum search space size can be minimized efficiently, and the average size can be approximated efficiently within a factor of 2.
We show that, under a worst-case assumption on the edge lengths, our bounds are comparable to the recent results of Abraham et al. , whose analysis depends also on the edge lengths. As a side result, we link their notion of highway dimension (a parameter that is conjectured to be small, but is unknown for all practical instances) with the notion of pathwidth. This is the first relation of highway dimension with a well-known graph parameter.
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