#28 Simulation engine

February 22, 2023
See the code for this post on the simulation-engine branch.

Today, we are starting to build the simulation engine. Let's see how it's going to work.

The simulation engine is going to simulate the behavior of drivers and customers. In the context of the simulation, let's call them entities.

Let's start with the customer entity. A customer will be modeled with the Customer class. The essence of the simulation is this: every n milliseconds, the customer will make a certain decision. We call the time interval between decisions the refresh rate.

What decision is the customer going to make at a given moment? That depends on some constraints. For example, if a customer is inactive, they can decide whether to stay inactive or become active. The decision will be picked randomly from the available options, with some probability.

There can be multiple decisions at a single decision moment. Once the customer completes the decision-making process it will update the database. Then, it will wait for the duration of the refresh interval, after which new decision will be made.

Here's how we implement our logic using the Customer class:

class Customer {
constructor({ name }) {
this.refreshInterval = 500;
this.name = name;
this.active = false;
this.location = null;
async simulate() {
while (true) {
let newActive;
if (this.active) newActive = decide(95);
else newActive = decide(5);
if (this.active !== newActive) {
if (newActive) {
const location = roadNodes[getRandomInt(0, roadNodes.length - 1)];
this.location = location;
this.active = newActive;
const res = await db.query(
INSERT INTO customers (name, active, location)
VALUES ('${this.name}', ${this.active}, '${this.location}')
DO UPDATE SET name = EXCLUDED.name, active = EXCLUDED.active, location = EXCLUDED.location;
if (!res.rowCount || res.rowCount !== 1) console.error(res);
await wait(this.refreshInterval);

The simulate() function runs an infinite loop. If the customer is active, there is a 95 % chance they will remain active. If they are inactive, there is a 5 % chance they will become active. That means, on average, if they are inactive, they will become active after 20 refresh cycles. Similarly as with the car, we are upserting the updated state to the database.

Next, we need to initialize the customers table both locally and on our production server.

CREATE TABLE customers (
active BOOLEAN,
location VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL

Now, let's add the /customers endpoint for our web server, which will return the list of active customers.

func getCustomers(w http.ResponseWriter, req *http.Request) {
rows, err := db.Connection.Query("SELECT * FROM customers where active = true")
# ...

Finally, in the frontend, inside the Map class, let's add the loadCustomers() method which will periodically fetch the list of active customers and set it to state.

async loadCustomers() {
while (true) {
const customers = await api.get('/customers');
this.setState({ customers });
await wait(fetchInterval);

On a re-render, the Map will display the customers represented by the CustomerIcon component.

const customers = this.state.customers.map(({ id, name, location }) => {
const [x, y] = location.split(':');
return (
x={x * squareSize - (squareSize / 2)}
y={y * squareSize - (squareSize / 2)}

And this is our updated map. The cars are not aware of the customers yet, but we will address that soon!

In this iteration, I did some more refactoring. Check out the code branch for a full list of changes.

  • The simulation files now use the module syntax for imports and exports. This is a more up-to-date approach and is also consistent with the code style of the frontend.
  • I'm now storing duplicate code in simulation/utils.js and frontend/src/utils.js. This code is supposed to be shared between the two subfolders, but I have yet to find a clean way to import this library to the React app from outside of its project folder. I will fix this once I find some time for this.
See the code for this post on the simulation-engine branch.