Migrating Techniques from Search-Based Multi-Agent Path Finding Solvers to SAT-Based Approach

Pavel Surynek, Roni Stern, Eli Boyarski, Ariel Felner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In the multi-agent path finding problem (MAPF) we are given a set of agents each with respective start and goal positions. The task is to find paths for all agents while avoiding collisions, aiming to minimize a given objective function. Many MAPF solvers were introduced in the past decade for optimizing two specific objective functions: sum-of-costs and makespan. Two prominent categories of solvers can be distinguished: search-based solvers and compilation-based solvers. Search-based solvers were developed and tested for the sum-of-costs objective, while the most prominent compilation-based solvers that are built around Boolean satisfiability (SAT) were designed for the makespan objective. Very little is known on the performance and relevance of solvers from the compilation-based approach on the sum-of-costs objective. In this paper, we start to close the gap between these cost functions in the compilation-based approach. Our main contribution is a new SAT-based MAPF solver called MDD-SAT, that is directly aimed to optimally solve the MAPF problem under the sum-of-costs objective function. Using both a lower bound on the sum-of-costs and an upper bound on the makespan, MDD-SAT is able to generate a reasonable number of Boolean variables in our SAT encoding. We then further improve the encoding by borrowing ideas from ICTS, a search-based solver. In addition, we show that concepts applicable in search-based solvers like ICTS and ICBS are applicable in the SAT-based approach as well. Specifically, we integrate independence detection, a generic technique for decomposing an MAPF instance into independent subproblems, into our SAT-based approach, and we design a relaxation of our optimal SAT-based solver that results in a bounded suboptimal SAT-based solver. Experimental evaluation on several domains shows that there are many scenarios where our SAT-based methods outperform state-of-the-art sum-of-costs search-based solvers, such as variants of the ICTS and ICBS algorithms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-618
Number of pages66
JournalJournal of Artificial Intelligence Research
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

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