Route optimization is the process of taking a list of addresses and coming up with the most efficient and cost-effective path that takes you to all of them. On the surface this sounds like a simple task, but in actuality optimizing routes is incredibly complex procedure and it isn’t something a human can typically do themselves without the use of algorithms and route optimization software like the EasyRoutes delivery route planning app.

A well optimized route solves two of the most difficult computer science problems. The first is the Travelling Salesperson Problem (TSP) and the second is the Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP).

## Travelling Salesperson Problem (TSP)

Say you are a salesperson and you need to visit a bunch of addresses. How do you go about calculating the shortest route possible before returning home? It really depends on the number of stops.

If you have one stop to visit, it’s pretty straight forward. You leave your home to go to that addresses, and then you head back. If you have two stops to visit, you have a choice of visiting Address A first and then going to Address B, or visiting Address B first and going to Address A next before return home. If you keep adding stops, the complexity exponentially increases. For example, at 57 stops, there are more than quattuorvigintillion possible route combinations (that’s a one followed by 75 zeros)!

Computer scientists call the TSP an NP-hard problem, which means that it’s extremely difficult to solve.

Also consider that this is just talking about one route for one salesperson. What happens when you have multi salespeople who each need their own routes? The complexity becomes almost mind-boggling, and that’s the Vehicle Routing Problem.

## Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP)

The Vehicle Routing Problem asks “What is the optimal set of routes for a fleet of vehicles to traverse in order to deliver to a given set of customers?”. It is basically the Travelling Salesman Problem, but for multiple salesmen. The problem can be made more complex with parameters such as multiple salespeople per vehicle, vehicle capacity, returning to the start location to reload, driver breaks, and vehicles that don’t need to return to the start at the end of a route.