Time and Space Bounds for Planning

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Christer Bäckström
Peter Jonsson


There is an extensive literature on the complexity of planning, but explicit bounds on time and space complexity are very rare. On the other hand, problems like the constraint satisfaction problem (CSP) have been thoroughly analysed in this respect. We provide a number of upper- and lower-bound results (the latter based on various complexity-theoretic assumptions such as the Exponential Time Hypothesis) for both satisficing and optimal planning. We show that many classes of planning instances exhibit a dichotomy: either they can be solved in polynomial time or they cannot be solved in subexponential time. In many cases, we can even prove closely matching upper and lower bounds. Our results also indicate, analogously to CSPs, the existence of sharp phase transitions. We finally study and discuss the trade-off between time and space. In particular, we show that depth-first search may sometimes be a viable option for planning under severe space constraints.

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