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An Online Allocation Mechanism with Pre-Commitment and its Application to Electric Vehicle Charging

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We introduce a novel online mechanism that schedules the allocation of an expiring resource among a set of self-interested agents. There are many real-life instances of this problem, including in smart grids, cloud computing and online advertising. A key application we study is the charging of electric vehicles, where owners arrive dynamically over time, and each owner requires a minimum amount of charge by its departure to complete its next trip. In order to truthfully elicit the agents’ preferences in this setting, we introduce the new concept of pre-commitment: Whenever an agent is selected, our mechanism pre-commits to charging the vehicle by its reported departure time, but maintains flexibility about when the charging takes place. We show that our pre-commitment mechanism incentivises truthful reporting when coupled with a state of the art online scheduling heuristic. Furthermore, through simulations based on real-world data, we show that the average utility achieved by our mechanism is over 93% of the offline optimal.

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