Forbes magazine’s September 12 issue has a nice piece by Helen Coster on how trucking company Schneider National decided to invest in a fleet-wide “tactical planning simulator” that used algorithms developed by Princeton Engineering’s Warren Powell to “mimic the decision making of human dispatchers on an inhumanly large scale.”

“What interested Schneider, a full-truckload carrier, was Powell’s work in the field of approximate dynamic programming, which is a way to make decisions in the presence of uncertainty,” writes Coster. “Schneider needed a model that could take into account the nonobvious and sometimes random variables that affect the efficiency of thousands of drivers over weeks of time and at a high level of detail.”

A team of engineers from Schneider and Princeton spent two years developing software for the simulator. The company reports that the simulator has helped Schneider save tens of millions of dollars.

By the way, Wired magazine featured Powell’s transportation research earlier this year in a feature on artificial intelligence.

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