The Flexibility of GraphHopper

I often hear some misconceptions about the flexibility of GraphHopper. In this post I speak about GraphHopper core.

Flexibility Mode

GraphHopper is designed to be fast and flexible. For example you can route through entire Germany in about 1 second on average without any speed-up method, I’ll call this ‘flexibility mode’. You have to keep in mind that this involves traversing millions of nodes in the road network. In this mode you have all possibilities and advantages like on-demand profiles, small base graph, support for multiple vehicles and so on. A naive implementation for OpenStreetMap data probably won’t reach this query speed, even if coded in C++. Additionally we fight with the memory waste and garbage collection in Java.

Speed up Mode

The main disadvantage for the flexibility mode is that long queries will need lots of RAM, which is also not very handy on mobile devices. So you’ll have to limit the length of the route, increase the heuristical nature of the algorithm OR which is our default mode: switch to the speed up mode which uses a special algorithm called contraction hierarchies. The speed up mode comes with disadvantes e.g. only one query profile is possible or a bigger base graph. But it dramatically reduces the necessary RAM per query and as a nice side effect makes the query 50-500 times faster, depending on the length of the route. These are the reasons that the default mode for GraphHopper is the speed up mode. (And our Directions API is provided only in this speed up mode.) With GraphHopper switching between modes is just a configuration change (chShortcuts=fastest or chShortcuts=no) and our architecture was build with this in mind and is open for new and completely different speed-up algorithms. The benefit of this simplicity is that you can play around and tune the routing of one or more vehicles with various options in the flexibility mode, and then if you need performance or want to use it on mobile devices you can switch to the speed up mode.