PhD: Predictive Vehicle Routing for On-demand Logistics

Department/faculty: Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering
Level: Doctorate
Working hours: 38.0 hours weekly
Contract: <empty>
Salary: 2325 - 2972 euros monthly (full-time basis)

Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering

The 3mE Faculty trains committed engineering students, PhD candidates and post-doctoral researchers in groundbreaking scientific research in the fields of mechanical, maritime and materials engineering. 3mE is the epitome of a dynamic, innovative faculty, with a European scope that contributes demonstrable economic and social benefits. 

You will be part of the Cognitive Robotics department . The main focus of the Cognitive Robotics department is the development of intelligent robots and vehicles that will advance mobility, productivity and quality of life. Our mission is to bring robotic solutions to human-inhabited environments, focusing on research in the areas of machine perception, motion planning and control, machine learning, automatic control and physical interaction of intelligent machines with humans.

We combine fundamental research with work on physical demonstrators in areas such as self-driving vehicles, collaborative industrial robots, mobile manipulators and haptic interfaces. Strong collaborations exist with cross-faculty institutes TU Delft Robotics Institute and TU Delft Transport Institute), our national robotic ecosystem (RoboValley, Holland Robotics) and international industry and academia.   

Job description

PhD3: Predictive Vehicle Routing for On-demand Logistics
Gradually, maturing robotic technology will enable large-scale deployments of highly-automated systems for logistics. Fleets of autonomous mobile robots can be leveraged to make industrial intralogistics more flexible and more efficient and fleets of automated on-demand vehicles can disrupt urban commerce by providing last-mile deliveries faster and cheaper than what is possible using traditional delivery channels. To fully realize the benefits of such large-scale multi-robot systems, novel analytical and control techniques are needed. In this project, you will research methods that allow to make principled decisions about design parameters of such systems, and to control vehicles in the system, such that the desired trade-off between the fleet composition, operation cost, and system performance is achieved.

Research Approach:

  • You will employ tools from combinatorial optimization to design dynamic vehicle routing methods for multiple vehicles (potentially autonomous and of different types) and tasks. The methods will include rebalancing of vehicles.

  • You will develop machine learning tools to model and address the stochasticity in the system, e.g. in travel time or prediction of tasks.

  • You will use as case study a large Dutch retailer.

This PhD position is part of a larger research effort to study AI and Robotics for retail (supermarkets, distribution centres, online retail and supply chain) at the Delft University of Technology, see Together with Ahold Delhaize -a multinational retail organization with brands such as Albert Heijn, Delhaize,, Etos, Gall&Gall, Stop & Shop- and the Dutch Innovation Center for AI, the TUDelft, has started a joint research lab to join the best of academic and industrial research. The lab focuses on fundamental research in artificial intelligence and robotics for retail. The lab will host 5 PhD positions and research assistants. It is led by Prof. Martijn Wisse, and has principal investigators per domain. One of the perks this industry collaboration program is the possibility  for scientists to conduct both foundational research and test or pilot ideas in an applied context.

In Delft, we currently have three vacant PhD positions, namely:

  • PhD1: Mobile manipulation in dynamic environments

  • PhD2: Self-adaptive robot architectures for reliable, safe and explainable autonomous behaviour

  • PhD3: Predictive Vehicle Routing for On-demand Logistics

If you are interested in multiple positions, please apply only to the one that interests you the most and mention in your motivation letter your interest in multiple positions. You will be automatically considered for those positions.


The candidate has a very good MSc degree (or is about to complete it) in applied mathematics, transportation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer science, systems & control or a related field. The candidate must have strong analytical skills and must be able to work at the intersection of several research domains. A very good command of the English language is required, as well as excellent communication skills. Candidates having exhibited their ability to perform research in vehicle routing problems or combinatorial optimization, are especially encouraged to apply.

Conditions of employment

TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount for health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. An International Children’s Centre offers childcare and an international primary school. Dual Career Services offers support to accompanying partners. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.

As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment; an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor; and a Doctoral Education Programme aimed at developing your transferable, discipline related and research skills. Please visit for more information.

Information and application

If you have specific questions about this position, please contact assistant professor Dr. Javier Alonso-Mora, e-mail:, web:  Please do not send application emails here, but use the specified address below. 

To apply, please submit:

  • a letter of motivation explaining why you are the right candidate for this project

  • a detailed CV

  • a complete record of Bachelor and Master courses (including grades)

  • your Master’s Thesis (at least as draft)

  • any publications, and a list of projects you have worked on with brief descriptions of your contributions (max 2 pages), and

  • the names and contact addresses of two or three references.

All these items should be combined in one PDF document. Applications should be submitted by email at the earliest convenience to When applying for this position, please refer to vacancy number 3mE19-40. The review of applications will start on July 7th 2019 and continue until the position is filled. The starting date is flexible, preferably near August 2019. If you are interested in more than one position in the AIRlab Delft program, please submit a single application to your preferred position and indicate that in your letter of motivation. You will then be considered for all selected positions.

Enquiries from agencies are not appreciated.


Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering
Working hours
38.0 hours weekly
2325 - 2972 euros monthly (full-time basis)

Closing date
July 8, 2019
Vacancy nr.


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