Scientists at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid (UC3M) have presented a new technique based on Artificial Intelligence that can automatically create plans, allowing problems to be solved with much greater speed than current methods provide when resources are limited. This method can be applied in sectors such as logistics, autonomous control of robots, fire extinguishing and on-line learning.
The researchers have developed a new methodology to solve automated planning problems, an area of AI, especially when there are more objectives than it is possible to achieve in the available time. The idea is to get the system to find, on its own, an ordered sequence of actions that will allow objectives to be reached (in a final stage) given the initial situation and available resources. For example, given a group of trucks and goods, these techniques can use automatic planning to optimize the routes and means of transport, based on timetables and products. The methodology presented by these scientists would, in this case, allow the users to create plans in a situation in which not all the packages can be delivered, as would occur when the time that is needed to perform the task is greater than the time that is available, because of the inadequacy of the available resources. In this case, the system would attempt to find a plan by which the greatest number of goods possible could be delivered, thus minimizing the cost.
The new methodology that these scientists propose allows solutions to be found that are equivalent to or better than those provided by the other existing techniques, in addition to doing so much faster, when there are limited resources that can be used. "With regard to time, our technique is three to ten times faster, and with regard to quality, our solutions offer similar quality to that obtained by the best technique that is currently available", states one of the researchers, Ángel García Olaya, of the PLG group (Planning and Learning Research Group) of UC3M’s Computer Science Department. "Now – he points out – we are making modifications that we hope will allow us to give still greater quality to our solutions". This study has been presented at the most recent Conferencia Española para la Inteligencia Artificial (CAEPIA – Spanish Conference on Artificial Intelligence) in Tenerife, where it received the award for the best article. In addition, it has recently been published in Lecture Notes in Computer Science by Springer. This research at UC3M has received funding from the Autonomous Community of Madrid and the Ministry of Science and Innovation.