Audi owners could soon get the jump on traffic lights, thanks to new technology built into the German car maker’s 2017 models.
Many cities have networked their traffic systems, making the data open and available to anyone. It's like how any smartphone apps can grab transit data and give real-time public transport schedules. In cities that do, the Audi can "talk" to the traffic lights and give the driver a countdown to a green light, displayed on the instrument panel.
Audi can sell the green-light countdown as a convenience feature for its customers. A driver could read the news or eat breakfast, all with the tranquility of knowing exactly when the light will change.
But the real benefits involve safety and the environment. A driver that knows that the lights are about to flip to red can slow down, instead of hitting the gas to reach a light they won’t beat. Better still, when our cars drive themselves, this data will let them start and stop smoothly, and even "surf" the wave of green lights, which are often already phased to allow cars traveling at the speed limit to traverse many blocks’ worth of intersections without stopping.
In between these two extremes lie the true practicalities. "In the future we could envision this technology integrated into vehicle navigation, start/stop functionality, and can even be used to help improve traffic flow in municipalities," Audi’s connected vehicles manager Pom Malhotra said in a statement. "These improvements could lead to better overall efficiency and shorter commuting times."
Today’s newest cars do a lot of the driving for you. They can park themselves, they warn you when you drift out of the lane, and jump on the brakes automatically if the vehicle in front suddenly slows or stops. It’s not hard to see how this new system could feed into this, letting the car cut the engine at the lights, restarting a second before they change, or even recommending routes based on the patterns of the traffic lights.
Last year, BMW announced a similar system, and for anyone not in the market for an expensive new German automobile, there’s a smartphone app available to do the same thing (the light-predicting part, at least).
For this to be truly useful, it needs to be more widespread, so that cars can work together. And really, the more cars take car of themselves in cities, instead of letting distracted humans careen through the streets, the safer we’ll all be.
Have something to say about this article? You can email us and let us know. If it's interesting and thoughtful, we may publish your response.