Game theory used to create Smart traffic lights

University of Toronto civil engineering graduate, Samah El-Tantawy, has used game theory to create “intelligent” traffic lights and is now receiving global recognition for her work.  

The system uses artificial intelligence allowing the signals to “talk” to one another, and make real-time decisions in order to keep traffic flowing.  In a Uni of Toronto media release, El-Tantaway explains, 

“In lay language the [traffic lights] act as a team of players cooperating to win a game — much like players in a soccer match, where each player endeavors to score, but at the same time considers the ultimate goal of the entire team which is winning the match.”  

The researcher has piloted a test using micro-simulation models on 60 intersections in downtown Toronto which saw delays reduced by up to 40% and travel times improved by up to 25%.  

Samah El-Tantawy has already received two academic honours for her work, including the award for best PhD dissertation from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Intelligent Transportation Systems Society and second place in the George B. Dantzig Dissertation Award from The Institute of Operations Research and Management Sciences.

According to this Buzz60 clip featured on Geekquinox, the project is generating keen interest from the traffic signal industry, and El-Tantawy is “in the process of commercialising her research and forming a start-up company”.  

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