LAU works to mitigate Beirut traffic
A professor and his students join a team of international researchers in search of a solution to the city’s chronic vehicular congestion.
How can we lessen the traffic in Beirut with limited resources? That is the question LAU professor Azzam Mourad from the Department of Computer Science and Mathematics and a team of researchers are aiming to answer as part of a project looking at intelligent transport and vehicular technologies.
Together with colleagues from the Lebanese University, the American University of Beirut, Khalifa University (UAE), University of Quebec-ETS Montreal (Canada), Concordia University (Canada), Blaise Pascal University-CNRS LIMOS Lab (France), and Kuwait University, Mourad founded the Associated Research Unit for Intelligent Transport and Vehicular Technologies. “If we succeed and produce concrete results through our research over the next three years, we will seek to establish the unit on a permanent basis,” he says.
Ph.D. and master’s candidates, specialists in vehicular networks and web services, will work on developing algorithms, models and approaches that address several problems related to the flow of information from vehicles on the road to be shared between vehicles and with Beirut’s traffic Command and Control Center (CCC).
“The CCC is run under the Ministry of Interior because to date it has been more involved in police work and basic traffic management,” Mourad says. “But their cooperation in our project is important and we hope to become a helpful entity for them.”
With limited government resources, Mourad and his team are well aware that any solutions they propose cannot require multi-million-dollar investments in infrastructure. “Such projects yield few results. Industry players have tried and failed, because in Lebanon we don’t have a budget to build infrastructure for electricity let alone traffic management.”
The solutions being developed by the team are therefore focused on the use of mobile technology. “Mobile technology has improved greatly and we can use it to build solutions that enable vehicles to share information.” In addition to the research conducted by the Ph.D. and master’s students at LAU, a practical component will be included to test findings.
“There are various routes one can take to get from one place to another. Using cheap mobile technology, we will enable drivers to determine which routes are less congested,” Mourad explains. The information gathered may with time be used by the CCC in the design of traffic management flows and systems.
Mourad is pragmatic and aware that a real solution to Beirut’s congestion would require great investment. “But we may help on a practical side, and ameliorate the streets with available resources.”
The research unit itself has limited funding, but a great deal of determination. “Success will open a lot of doors for us to apply for further funding from other agencies in Europe, the Gulf and elsewhere,” Mourad hopes. The total project budget is approximately $300,000, supported by the National Council for Scientific Research and the unit partners as grant and bursaries. LAU is offering expertise, working space for the unit members and bursaries for master’s students working on the study while the Canadian and French universities are absorbing the costs of the Ph.D. students.
Dr. Mourad is collaborating with Dr. John Khoury and Dr. Ramzi Haraty (LAU), Dr. Ahmad Shahin, Dr. Mohamad Khalil, Dr. Walid Moudani and Dr. Fadi Chakik (Lebanese University), Dr. Farid Chaaban (AUB), Dr. Hadi Otrok and Dr. Rabab Mizouni (Khalifa University), Dr. Chamseddine Talhi (University of Quebec), Dr. Jamal Ben Taher and Dr. Chadi Assi (Concordia), Dr. Michel Misson and Dr. Gerard Chalhoub (Blaise Pascal) and Dr. Hamdi Yahyaoui (Kuwait University).