Yes, data that is imported into Driverless AI can include missing values. Feature engineering is fully aware of missing values, and missing values are treated as information - either as a special categorical level or as a special number. So for target encoding, for example, rows with a certain missing feature will belong to the same group. For Categorical Encoding where aggregations of a numeric columns are calculated for a grouped categorical column, missing values are kept. The formula for calculating the mean is the sum of non-missing values divided by the count of all non-missing values. For clustering, we impute missing values. And for frequency encoding, we count the number of rows that have a certain missing feature.

The imputation strategy is as follows:

  • XGBoost/LightGBM do not need missing value imputation and may, in fact, perform worse with any specific other strategy unless the user has a strong understanding of the data.
  • Driverless AI automatically imputes missing values using the mean for GLM.
  • Driverless AI provides an imputation setting for TensorFlow in the config.toml file: tf_nan_impute_value post-normalization. If you set this option to 0, then missing values will be imputed. Setting it to (for example) +5 will specify 5 standard deviations outside the distribution. The default for TensorFlow is -5, which specifies that TensorFlow will treat NAs like a missing value. We recommend that you specify 0 if the mean is better.

More information is available in the Missing Values Handling section.