Travel time prediction in transport and logistics: Towards more efficient vehicle GPS data management using tree ensemble methods

Xia Li, Ruibin Bai, Peer Olaf Siebers, Christian Wagner

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Many transport and logistics companies nowadays use raw vehicle GPS data for travel time prediction. However, they face difficult challenges in terms of the costs of information storage, as well as the quality of the prediction. This paper aims to systematically investigate various meta-data (features) that require significantly less storage space but provide sufficient information for high-quality travel time predictions. Design/methodology/approach: The paper systematically studied the combinatorial effects of features and different model fitting strategies with two popular decision tree ensemble methods for travel time prediction, namely, random forests and gradient boosting regression trees. First, the investigation was conducted using pseudo travel time data that were generated using a pseudo travel time sampling algorithm, which allows generating travel time data using different noise processes so that the prediction performance under different travel conditions and noise characteristics can be studied systematically. The results and findings were then further compared and evaluated through a real-life case. Findings: The paper provides empirical insights and guidelines about how raw GPS data can be reduced into a small-sized feature vector for the purposes of vehicle travel time prediction. It suggests that, add travel time observations from the previous departure time intervals are beneficial to the prediction, particularly when there is no other types of real-time information (e.g. traffic flow, speed) are available. It was also found that modular model fitting does not improve the quality of the prediction in all experimental settings used in this paper. Research limitations/implications: The findings are primarily based on empirical studies on limited real-life data instances, and the results may lack generalisabilities. Therefore, the researchers are encouraged to test them further in more real-life data instances. Practical implications: The paper includes implications and guidelines for the development of efficient GPS data storage and high-quality travel time prediction under different types of travel conditions. Originality/value: This paper systematically studies the combinatorial feature effects for tree-ensemble-based travel time prediction approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-306
Number of pages30
JournalVINE Journal of Information and Knowledge Management Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2019


  • GPS data management
  • Gradient boosting
  • Machine learning
  • Random forests
  • Travel time prediction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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