A Computer Program For Willie Loman

January 21, 1999

The optimal route for a salesman to take when traveling through a specific number of cities and returning to the starting point is a logistics question known to mathematicians as the Traveling Salesman Problem. With ONR funding, the Rice-Rutgers team recently announced a new record for the Traveling Salesman Problem by determining the best possible route for a salesman visiting 13,509 cities. This far exceeds the 2,892-city limit established when the Rice-Rutgers team began working the problem. TSP solutions require sophisticated computer algorithms as well as other technological advances such as parallel processing. The researchers say their present computer code would run to well over a thousand pages, if printed. Direct applications of the traveling salesman problem range from drilling holes in printed circuit boards to designing fiber-optic communications networks, and from routing helicopters around oil rigs to picking up coins from telephone booths.

Office of Naval Research

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