In the Traveling Salesperson Problem with Neighborhoods (TSPN), we are given a collection of geometric regions in some space. The goal is to output a tour of minimum length that visits at least one point in each region. Even in the Euclidean plane, TSPN is known to be APX-hard, which gives rise to studying more tractable special cases of the problem. In this paper, we focus on the fundamental special case of regions that are hyperplanes in the $d$-dimensional Euclidean space. This case contrasts the much-better understood case of so-called fat regions. While for $d=2$ an exact algorithm with running time $O(n^5)$ is known, settling the exact approximability of the problem for $d=3$ has been repeatedly posed as an open question. To date, only an approximation algorithm with guarantee exponential in $d$ is known, and NP-hardness remains open. For arbitrary fixed $d$, we develop a Polynomial Time Approximation Scheme (PTAS) that works for both the tour and path version of the problem. Our algorithm is based on approximating the convex hull of the optimal tour by a convex polytope of bounded complexity. Such polytopes are represented as solutions of a sophisticated LP formulation, which we combine with the enumeration of crucial properties of the tour. As the approximation guarantee approaches $1$, our scheme adjusts the complexity of the considered polytopes accordingly. In the analysis of our approximation scheme, we show that our search space includes a sufficiently good approximation of the optimum. To do so, we develop a novel and general sparsification technique to transform an arbitrary convex polytope into one with a constant number of vertices and, in turn, into one of bounded complexity in the above sense. Hereby, we maintain important properties of the polytope.
|Place of Publication
|Published - 11 Apr 2018