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For most of us, it is almost unthinkable to embark on any road journey without either a detailed map or having a route planned. To facilitate the travel planning process we invariably use some vehicle planning software. In effect, route planning software uses a search engine to display the most convenient route between two or more locations.
The principle behind route planning software
As a concept, using technology to plan journeys has its roots in the concept of graph theory, which is a facet of both computer science and mathematics. In both disciplines, a graph is a construct that is used to display data and/or the relationships between the components of the system. In other words, the graph is used to help us represent and interpret reality by connecting disparate points or objects. In the real world if you had only a few hours to explore a city destination you would plan the best possible route such that you saw as many sites as possible in the shortest possible time, perhaps by joining the sites with a line. The same principle applies to route planning software in those algorithms that are used to display the optimum route between different points on a digital map.
The first sectors to take advantage of route planning technology were the travel and transport industries of the 1970’s. In the 1970s, computing was still in its infancy and by the standards of 2014, it was somewhat primitive to say the least. Never the less, booking agents and telephone operators were able to access a terminal that displayed all the information needed to provide the best advice on how to organise a journey. At the time route optimisation software tended to be developed in-house, for use in a particular industry or commercial setting. Often the technology was used in tandem with some kind of ticket purchasing, reservation or scheduling framework.
The 21st century
Since the late 1980’s computers as a resource have become inextricably linked to every strand of modern life and vehicle routing software is no different. The algorithms are now designed to run on most portable and static devices. In addition as the internet has become almost universal in terms of its accessibility, most route optimisation software is accessible at the click of a mouse button, irrespective of the device or the users geographic location. In short for both business and personal use it is possible to plan any journey, (theoretically including all transport modes) and compare travel choices between local, national and international locations.
As the transport system has become increasingly interconnected, so the algorithms and parameters we use to navigate through the system have become increasingly complex. It is now possible to use different networks and journey planning systems to organise all parts of a journey from one location. In this context, the distribution or logistics company can fully integrate vehicle route planning technology into its fleet management protocols. Such systems will often include advanced GPS tracking and real-time communication features.
Vehicle planning software is not infallible and often we have to change the search parameters to take in destinations we would like to visit. However, the principle is sound and has great utility both in our professional personal lives.