Klaus Fischer, Jörg P. Müller, Markus Pischel, and Darius Schier
The MARS system is described which models cooperative scheduling within a society of shipping companies as a multiagent system. Emphasis is placed on the functionality of the system as a whole --- the solution of the global scheduling problem emerges from local decision-making and problem-solving strategies. An extension of the contract net protocol is presented; we show that it can be used to obtain good initial solutions for complex resource allocation problems. By introducing global information based upon auction protocols, this initial solution can be improved significantly. Experimental results are provided evaluating the performance of different cooperative scheduling strategies. Although the concepts for resource scheduling are presented solely for the transportation domain, their abstraction is useful for a broad variety of resource allocation problems. The MARS system solves the dynamic scheduling problem where no complete specification of the problem is available a priori; thus, it is designed as an on-line system based upon anytime algorithms.