Conquering Traffic through Simulation Public Lecture 2018

28 March 2018

On the evening of Wednesday, the 28th of March 2018, the DAAD Cairo Office hosted its first Urbanism Cluster event of the year within the framework of its project Clusters of Scientific Innovation in the Middle East and North Africa (COSIMENA). Researchers and policy makers from Egypt and Germany came together to discuss existing and possible future cooperation within the region and with Germany.

The evening was opened by Dr. Roman Luckscheiter, Director of the DAAD Cairo Office, and Prof. Dr. Angela Ittel, Vice President for international relations and teacher education of Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin), as well as H. E. Prof. Dr. Hesham Arafaat, Minister of Transport of the Arab Republic of Egypt, in attendance of 40 guests representing university as well as non-university scholars.

In his welcome address, Dr. Luckscheiter highlighted the role of COSIMENA which aims to ensure more intensive networking between researchers of the region and Germany. Similar traffic problems can occur in metropolitan cities like Cairo and Berlin. Therefore, it is necessary to exchange experiences, ideas and innovative approaches and to, “discover the potential of cooperation”. This issue can be used as an example for a perfect collaboration topic of research between Germany and Cairo, as Dr. Luckscheiter made it clear.

Dr. Ittel expressed her content about being able to visit Egypt multiple times as part of the TU Berlin collaborations with lots of entities, researchers and different universities. After introducing the lecturer, Prof. Dr. Kai Nagel, who is a researcher at the same university she is representing, she also mentioned what she referred to as TU Berlin’s “sister campus” in El Gouna, where there are currently three master’s degrees offered with a potential of further expansions in the near future.

The final part of the welcome address was given by Dr. Arafaat who was very glad to be taking part in the event as a DAAD alumnus firstly, and for his interest in the topic secondly. He emphasised the importance of scientific collaborations in urban planning, and more specifically on the topic of traffic. As it is the case in most of the metropolitan regions in developing countries, Dr. Arafaat states that Cairo is suffering from a high amount of carbon dioxide emission as one of the side effects of traffic, that consequently causes indirect financial burden on the Egyptian economy.

Dr. Nagel, Professor of Transportation Planning at TU Berlin, then took the floor to start his one-hour lecture that consisted mainly of two parts. At the beginning of the lecture, Dr. Nagel introduced MATSim (the Multi-Agent Transport Simulation Toolkit) which is an open source software development project that he started, intended for the use in transportation planning models. The software is basically simulating the transportation behaviour of many people in a city system, each person on its own and with his unique path and vehicle. Doing that, the programme can distinguish between categories like pedestrian, train, car and bicycle and even more. The movement of all persons then results in traffic and congestions, which the programme can display. Moreover, the model can also show emissions of the different vehicles.

After that, Dr. Nagel proceeded to explain results from simulations done in several parts around the world using that model, including countries with similar traffic dynamics to Egypt, like India for example. One of those results demonstrated how one simulation was able to synthetically replace one million privately owned cars in Berlin by a fleet of 100,000 autonomous electrical vehicles. He showed different problems one must consider like empty runs, the weather and the long charging times of electrical cars. A normal taxi in Germany drives about 150 km per shift – if autonomous it could be about 300 km. Dr. Nagel states, that today’s electrical cars can easily make up to 200 km and if a day is divided into two shifts, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, the cars can easily complete each tour and recharge after that. This would of course afford new infrastructure and especially charging infrastructure. He argues, that one could place them at the already existing taxi ranks in berlin. To his own surprise, he found out that the electrification of the system and the costs for charging stations wouldn’t be more expensive than the current system.

At the end of the lecture, a brief Q&A session was held, and many questions were raised by the researchers attending dealing for example with the required data for such a simulation, the consideration of traffic accidents in the software and the potential usage of big data. In the end, Dr. Nagel highlighted how this research is important to participate in the public debate and in bringing traffic planning to the discussion with policy makers and Dr. Arafaat himself showed interest in the possibilities of the system and its potential application in the planning of the “New Administrative Capital” in Egypt. The evening was rounded off with a networking dinner at the premises of the DAAD and that provided opportunities for further elaborate discussions between the participants and Dr. Arafaat as well as with Dr. Nagel.