Applying Bayesian Optimization for Calibration of Transportation Simulation Models

Di Sha, Kaan Ozbay, Yue Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The parameters of a transportation simulation model need to pass through a careful calibration process to ensure that the model’s output is as close as possible to the actual system. Owing to the computationally expensive and black-box nature of a simulation model, there is a need for robust and efficient calibration algorithms. This paper proposes a Bayesian optimization framework for the high-dimensional calibration problem of transportation simulation models. Bayesian optimization uses acquisition functions to determine more promising values for future evaluation, instead of relying on local gradient approximations. It guarantees convergence to the global optimum with a reduced number of evaluations, therefore is very computationally efficient. The proposed algorithm is applied to the calibration of a simulation network coded in simulation of urban mobility (SUMO), an open-source microscopic transportation simulation platform, and compared with a well-known method named simultaneous perturbation stochastic approximation (SPSA). To assess the calibration accuracy, speed distributions obtained from the two models calibrated using these two different methods are compared with the observation. For both the Bayesian optimization and SPSA results, the simulated and observed distributions are validated to be from the same distribution at a 95% confidence level for multiple sensor locations. Thus, the calibration accuracy of the two approaches are both acceptable for a stochastic transportation simulation model. However, Bayesian optimization shows a better convergence and a higher computational efficiency than SPSA. In addition, the comparative results of multiple implementations validate its robustness for a noisy objective function, unlike SPSA which may sometimes get stuck in a local optimum and fail to converge in a global solution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-228
Number of pages14
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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