The Information-Collecting Vehicle Routing Problem: Stochastic Optimization for Emergency Storm Response

18 May 2016  ·  Lina Al-Kanj, Warren B. Powell, Belgacem Bouzaiene-Ayari ·

Utilities face the challenge of responding to power outages due to storms and ice damage, but most power grids are not equipped with sensors to pinpoint the precise location of the faults causing the outage. Instead, utilities have to depend primarily on phone calls (trouble calls) from customers who have lost power to guide the dispatching of utility trucks... In this paper, we develop a policy that routes a utility truck to restore outages in the power grid as quickly as possible, using phone calls to create beliefs about outages, but also using utility trucks as a mechanism for collecting additional information. This means that routing decisions change not only the physical state of the truck (as it moves from one location to another) and the grid (as the truck performs repairs), but also our belief about the network, creating the first stochastic vehicle routing problem that explicitly models information collection and belief modeling. We address the problem of managing a single utility truck, which we start by formulating as a sequential stochastic optimization model which captures our belief about the state of the grid. We propose a stochastic lookahead policy, and use Monte Carlo tree search (MCTS) to produce a practical policy that is asymptotically optimal. Simulation results show that the developed policy restores the power grid much faster compared to standard industry heuristics. read more

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