Theory-based residual neural networks: A synergy of discrete choice models and deep neural networks

TitleTheory-based residual neural networks: A synergy of discrete choice models and deep neural networks
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsShenhao Wang, Baichuan Mo, Jinhua Zhao
JournalTransportation Research Part B

Researchers often treat data-driven and theory-driven models as two disparate or even conflicting methods in travel behavior analysis. However, the two methods are highly complementary because data-driven methods are more predictive but less interpretable and robust, while theory-driven methods are more interpretable and robust but less predictive. Using their complementary nature, this study designs a theory-based residual neural network (TB-ResNet) framework, which synergizes discrete choice models (DCMs) and deep neural networks (DNNs) based on their shared utility interpretation. The TB-ResNet framework is simple, as it uses a (δ, 1-δ) weighting to take advantage of DCMs' simplicity and DNNs' richness, and to prevent underfitting from the DCMs and overfitting from the DNNs. This framework is also flexible: three instances of TB-ResNets are designed based on multinomial logit model (MNL-ResNets), prospect theory (PT-ResNets), and hyperbolic discounting (HDResNets), which are tested on three data sets. Compared to pure DCMs, the TBResNets provide greater prediction accuracy and reveal a richer set of behavioral mechanisms owing to the utility function augmented by the DNN component in the TBResNets. Compared to pure DNNs, the TB-ResNets can modestly improve prediction and significantly improve interpretation and robustness, because the DCM component in the TB-ResNets stabilizes the utility functions and input gradients. Overall, this study demonstrates that it is both feasible and desirable to synergize DCMs and DNNs by combining their utility specifications under a TB-ResNet framework. Although some limitations remain, this TB-ResNet framework is an important first step to create mutual benefits between DCMs and DNNs for travel behavior modeling, with joint improvement in prediction, interpretation, and robustness.