Las Vegas – Imagine if you pull up to a red light, and a display on your car’s instrument panel tells you how long it’ll be before the light turns green. Well, if you live in Las Vegas and you drive an Audi A4 or Q7 built after June 2016, imagine no more.
These two models are now able to connect to the city’s traffic infrastructure – specifically the computer that runs the traffic lights – and exchange data in real time, so they can display the traffic-light phases inside the car, and count down to the green light.
But it does more than that: As you drive, the display shows whether the next traffic light you will come to will be red or green when you get there, if you’re driving at the speed limit – and if it’ll be red, how long it will be before it turns green, so you can gently back off the loud pedal and arrive just after the last car ahead of you has pulled away.
Pilot projects in Europe have shown that this smooths traffic flow, because drivers like to think they’re ‘beating the system’ – they look ahead with the help of this red-light information and about one in five doesn’t stop at all, which results in less frazzled nerves and fuel-consumption savings of up to 15 percent.
Audi is working with several more cities in North America to upgrade their infrastructure for Vehicle-to-Infrastructure technology, which is an important first step towards autonomous driving – but it also helps city traffic planners to understand how traffic works, what causes tailbacks and how to optimise the phasing of traffic lights.
In the future this information could be linked to your satnav’s route planning, so that you travel in a sequence of ‘green waves’, stopping as seldom as possible – and so that cars with regenerative braking can make the best possible use of that momentum when they do have to slow down or stop.
Audi is also planning to introduce the technology in Europe, with pilot projects already running in Berlin, Ingolstadt, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Veronathere.
But, outside of Germany, there’s a catch – there’s no unified standard for digital infrastructure, so the Audi Connect servers will have to be able to convert a number different data feeds into a common format, before transmitting the information to the car via the internet. Audi is working on that, it says, and when it’s done, its cars will be able to offer traffic light information right across Europe.