Route choice in hilly terrain
journal contributionposted on 12.12.2014, 13:29 by Anthony Kay
The orienteering route choice problem involves finding the fastest route between two given points, with running speed determined by various properties of the terrain. In this study, I consider only the effect of climbing or descending on running speed. If a runner's pace p (the reciprocal of speed) varies linearly with gradient m, the straight-line route always is fastest. However, a nonlinear formulation for p(m), with d2p/dm2 > 0, will more accurately model runners’ capabilities. As a result, critical gradients may exist for ascent and/or descent, such that optimal routes will never ascend or descend more steeply than the critical gradient. I review and propose several formulations for the pace function p(m) and calculate their critical gradients. In principle, the Euler–Lagrange equation can be used to find optimal routes between arbitrary points on any topography where the height can be expressed as a smooth function of horizontal coordinates. I obtain first integrals of this equation for idealized landforms: hillsides with straight contours and axisymmetric hills. Next, optimal routes are computed for various combinations of start- and endpoints on these landforms based on various pace functions. These routes are classified as either subcritical or maximal steepness: The former ascends or descends less steeply than the critical gradient; the latter takes the line of steepest ascent where it is not steeper than the critical gradient, but follows a curve at the critical gradient where the slope is steeper. In some cases, the optimal route zigzags up or down a hill along sections of a critical-gradient curve.
- Mathematical Sciences