Egyptian engineer wants to make Egypt's traffic lights smarter


Published: 2017-09-28 17:32

Last Updated: 2017-09-28 17:56

Samah wants to reduce traffic congestion in Egypt.
Samah wants to reduce traffic congestion in Egypt.

Egypt is famous for its crazy traffic, which is only getting worse by the year.

Cairo is home to 20 million people, two million cars and 23,000 miles of road, meaning hours of waiting time, car accidents and a huge burden on the economy.

Luckily, award-winning Egyptian engineer and mother of two, Samah Al Tantawy, has found a solution for her country’s traffic congestion.

Her love for maths and keen interest in intelligent transportation systems helped her come up with a system that promises to cut down the average waiting time at traffic lights, per intersection, by 40%.

Al Tantawy tells her story below.


“As a child I was in love with math. I still remember how my first grade teacher Jamila always encouraged me, and my parents too. My father was an accountant, and he would call and ask me for help because he knew I loved math.


I got married while doing my masters, and learned about intelligent transportation systems from my husband, Dr. Hossam Abdelgawad, who did his PhD in ITS. I was excited that it’s an interdisciplinary field in which all engineers can contribute to solving real-life transportation problems.


In my Ph.D. work [at the University of Toronto] I utilized game theory concepts to enable traffic lights to make their own decisions without negatively affecting one another to achieve the best performance for the whole network. One big advantage of this system is that it’s decentralized, as opposed to centralized systems which need a massive communication network.


My supervisor, Professor Abdulhai, was very supportive from day one until we got the promising results from the traffic simulator showing a 40% cut in average waiting time per intersection. I hope we can raise awareness about ITS, as it gives affordable solutions for our daily traffic problems, and I dearly wish to benefit my country and the Arab world with the science I’ve learned.”