Recently the 25 best small towns in South Africa article was doing the rounds on Facebook. The towns are listed in alphabetical order, which is great for looking up the destinations, but not for planning routes. The 25 town road trip in alphabetical order would require about 308 hrs on the road. This amounts to a full month of 10 hours driving per day. The average tourist with a visa would probably want to go on the trip in a more efficient manner. In fact, most of us would like to find a route to spend the least time on the road and more time exploring and experiencing the best towns in SA.
The problem we just described is commonly known as the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) where a salesman has to see his clients while traveling the shortest distance between them. The only difference in this article is that we are tourists and not salesman. A 25 town route does not sound like much to plan, but once we start with an attempt things soon turn out to be tedious with every address added making the routing more difficult. After a few attempts, most people give up on finding the shortest route and settle for another route that will do just fine.
If you like puzzles, you can rest assured: Instead of giving away the game and jumping in with an Intelligent Routing solution, you might want to look at the 25 routes and choose a sequence on your own. Here is a map with all the towns marked in Alphabetical order:
If you start at Clanwilliam as a base (0. in the screenshot) then you can write down the numbers in the order that you would visit each one. Take a moment to think about how you would plan the trip. How much time would it take? What needs to be done to get a realistic sequence?
For this blog post, we did exactly that: we planned the route as if we were going on a road trip, starting and ending in Clanwilliam without Intelligent Routing’s help.
If you want to try this on your own: we created a round trip route manually within 35 minutes that has a total distance of 6319.33 km with an estimated travel time of 93:50 hrs.
Here is how we found the route manually:
1. The first step was to make a list of all the 25 towns we want to visit.
2. They were then added to Google Maps 10 destinations at a time (Google Maps only allows 10) and ordered in a logical way, always reordering the list created in step 1 according to the logical order as seen on the map.
3. Once we were happy with the order of the route, we added up the distance and duration.
4. We repeated steps 2 and 3 until we were happy with the results.
5. Enter the final route from the list into Intelligent Routing.
Even with technology at hand, finding a good route is quite a lot of work. Finding the shortest route turns out to be even harder.
If you feel up to the challenge, go ahead and look for a shorter route than our attempt.
In our next blog post, we will have a look how Intelligent Routing technology can improve on the manual results.
Written by the Intelligent Routing team who work hard to make vehicle route optimization software available to every business that runs a fleet.
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