An Integrated Reinforcement Learning and Centralized Programming Approach for Online Taxi Dispatching

Enming Liang, Kexin Wen, William H.K. Lam, Agachai Sumalee, Renxin Zhong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Balancing the supply and demand for ride-sourcing companies is a challenging issue, especially with real-time requests and stochastic traffic conditions of large-scale congested road networks. To tackle this challenge, this article proposes a robust and scalable approach that integrates reinforcement learning (RL) and a centralized programming (CP) structure to promote real-time taxi operations. Both real-time order matching decisions and vehicle relocation decisions at the microscopic network scale are integrated within a Markov decision process framework. The RL component learns the decomposed state-value function, which represents the taxi drivers' experience, the off-line historical demand pattern, and the traffic network congestion. The CP component plans nonmyopic decisions for drivers collectively under the prescribed system constraints to explicitly realize cooperation. Furthermore, to circumvent sparse reward and sample imbalance problems over the microscopic road network, this article proposed a temporal-difference learning algorithm with prioritized gradient descent and adaptive exploration techniques. A simulator is built and trained with the Manhattan road network and New York City yellow taxi data to simulate the real-time vehicle dispatching environment. Both centralized and decentralized taxi dispatching policies are examined with the simulator. This case study shows that the proposed approach can further improve taxi drivers' profits while reducing customers' waiting times compared to several existing vehicle dispatching algorithms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Deep reinforcement learning (RL)
  • Dispatching
  • multiagent system
  • online vehicle routing
  • Programming
  • Public transportation
  • Real-time systems
  • Roads
  • stochastic network traffic
  • vehicle dispatching.
  • Vehicle dynamics
  • Vehicles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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