PhD Defense in Informatics Engineering: “Incentive Mechanisms and Policy Evaluation on Open Multi-Agent Systems: Towards Social-Aware Transportation Systems”

Zafeiris Kokkinogenis

Date, time and place
23rd September, 14:30, Sala de Atos FEUP


President of the Jury:

Carlos Manuel Milheiro de Oliveira Pinto Soares, PhD, Associate Professor, Departamento de Engenharia Informática, Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto



Alberto Fernandez Gil, PhD,  Associate Professor, Departamento de Ciencias de la Computación, Arquitectura de Computadores, Lenguajes y Sistemas Informáticos y Estadística e Investigación Operativa, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos;

Sandra Maria Monteiro de Melo, PhD, Main Researcher of the Business Unit INTELI – Policy & Intelligence for Sustainability, CEiiA – Centre of Engineering and Product Development;

Pedro José Ramos Moreira de Campos, PhD, Assistant Professor, Agrupamento Científico de Matemática e Sistemas de Informação, Faculdade de Economia da Universidade do Porto;

Rosaldo José Fernandes Rossetti, PhD, Associate Professor, Departamento de Engenharia Informática, Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto (Supervisor);

Ana Paula Cunha da Rocha, PhD, Associate Professor, Departamento de Engenharia Informática, Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto.



Generally speaking, a large-scale socio-technical system is formed up of individual entities that are distributed along with the system’s space and act asynchronously in their decision making processes. Each of the individuals bears its own goals and tends to behave rather “selfishly” and “greedily” to maximise self-welfare utilities. However, this characteristic will generally affect negatively the global efficiency and the designed (expected) emergent behavior of the system. Indeed, private road transport imposes negative externalities on society, such as road capacity restrictions, accidents, congestion, etc. An efficient mobility model must take into account the real costs of transport, and its regulatory framework will need to produce the conditions for people to make sustainable transport choices. Economic theories offer two types of instruments for addressing the problem of transport externalities: command-and-control and incentive-based policies.

Command-and-control policies are government regulations which force users to change their behavior. In that sense, recent approaches to optimise the traffic network throughput and reduce traffic congestion basically rely on “road pricing”. However, this approach ends up penalising the user and creating social inequalities as it imposes a tax to be paid. Only those who are insensitive to the price will benefit. Also, a population may not be responsive to the defined penalties, and thus, the regulation may not be efficient.

On the other hand, an approach that has gained the community’s attention is based on the implementation and design of incentive schemes in public policy. Incentives are seen as those external measures that try to motivate a behavior change towards the objective of the system. It appears to be a “fairer” vision, as it does not discriminate the user but rather tries to bring the society into equilibrium.

The domain area on which this PhD thesis is focused concerns open and competitive multiagent systems, such as the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and the electricity markets. This thesis intends to address the issue of whether or not incentive-centred designs can favour the emergence of social-aware behavior in agents that have selfish tendencies for a (global) optimal evolution of a socio-technical system. Traditional transport planning tools using the four-step model combined with standard economic appraisal methods are not able to provide such analysis. Instead, a multi-agent system (MAS) social simulations can be used as it is argued in the literature of complex systems.

Keywords: Multi-Agent Systems, Incentive Mechanisms, Resource Markets, Policy Evaluation, Traffic Simulation.

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