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Research Projects

STATUS: In Progress YEAR: 2019 TOPIC AREA: Freight logistics and optimization Sustainability, energy, and health CENTER: PSR

The 'sidekick' routing paradigm for VMT reduction and improved accessibility

Project Summary

Project number: PSR-19-20

Funding source: US DOT

Contract number: 69A3551747109

Funding amount: $96,793

Performance period: 1/1/2020 to 12/31/2020


Project description

This project will combine tools from geospatial analysis, mathematical optimization theory, and computational geometry to study a routing paradigm that we call sidekick routing. A sidekick routing scheme is a logistical framework in which a large vehicle, such as a truck or van, serves as a mobile base for a fleet of small vehicles (the "sidekicks"), such as autonomous ground vehicles (AGVs) or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Systems of this kind have significant potential to simultaneously reduce vehicle miles travelled (VMT)-because the sidekicks are not restricted to streets - and to improve accessibility to goods, because the so-called "last mile" cost of transporting those goods is reduced.


The sidekick paradigm has very recently seen use in many public and private sector organizations, both in California and elsewhere. However, although the requisite physical technology is reasonably mature, the requisite management technology (i.e. systems for determining efficient routing strategies) are relatively nascent. Moreover, the extent to which such services can provide a societal benefit are not yet understood, although we believe- based on our preliminary research in this area- that the potential is very high.


This project has three central goals. First, we will construct a formal mathematical description of sidekick routing problems. Second, we next design and implement algorithms to solve sidekick routing problems efficiently. Finally, and most importantly, we will use publicly available data to answer high-level questions about the desirability of sidekick systems, such as to what extent one can improve accessibility of services or reduce VMT by introducing sidekicks.


John Carlsson
Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering; Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
3650 McClintock Ave.
Olin Hall of Engineering (OHE) 310FLos Angeles, CA 90089-0193
United States
[email protected]