A-VRPD: Automating Drone-Based Last-Mile Delivery Using Self-Driving Cars


Drone-based last-mile delivery is an emerging technology that uses drones loaded onto a truck to deliver parcels to customers. In this paper, we introduce a fully automated system for drone-based last-mile delivery through incorporation of autonomous vehicles (AVs). A novel problem called the autonomous vehicle routing problem with drones (A-VRPD) is defined. A-VRPD is to select AVs from a pool of available AVs based on crowd sourcing, assign selected AVs to customer groups, and schedule routes for selected AVs to optimize the total operational cost. We formulate A-VRPD as a Mixed Integer Linear Program (MILP) and propose an optimization framework to solve the problem. A greedy algorithm is also developed to significantly improve the running time for large-scale delivery scenarios. Extensive simulations were conducted taking into account real-world operational costs for different types of AVs, traveled distances calculated considering the real-time traffic conditions using Google Map API, and varying load capacities of AVs. We evaluated the performance in comparison with two different state-of-the-art solutions: an algorithm designed to address the traditional vehicle routing problem with drones (VRP-D), which involves human-operated trucks working in tandem with drones to deliver parcels, and an algorithm for the two echelon vehicle routing problem (2E-VRP), wherein parcels are first transported to satellite locations and subsequently delivered from those satellites to the customers. The results indicate a substantial increase in profits for both the delivery company and vehicle owners compared with the state-of-the-art algorithms.

Publication Title

IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems