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Audi Online traffic light system helps drivers hit the green lights

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March 16, 2014

The Audi traffic light system uses icon prompts

The Audi traffic light system uses icon prompts

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One of life's small but satisfying pleasures is hitting the sweet spot while driving across town and catching all the green lights. At the moment, having that happen is a matter of luck, but Audi is developing a system that will make never getting caught by a red light an everyday thing as a way of speeding up traffic while improving fuel efficiency and cutting emissions.

Driving through a string of green lights isn't a question of gremlins or clean living, but of timing. Modern traffic signals operate on a system of preset timers. Sometimes these change depending on the time of day or, as is increasingly common, because the traffic system reacts to changes in the pattern of car movements. In other words, the trick to an uninterrupted journey is to figure out how the lights are timed at that moment and drive at the right speed, so you always hit the intersections when it’s green.

The Audi system works by taking the guesswork out of the equation. Using Audi connect and the Multi Media Interface (MMI) system, the car uses the internet to contact the area’s central traffic computer and asks it for the automated traffic light sequences. From these, the system calculates the best speed needed to hit as many green lights as possible. This speed, as well as red, green and amber icons, are displayed to the driver via the Driver Information System (DIS) located in the central instrument cluster. If the car is already at a red light, it provides a countdown until green and overrides the start/stop mechanism to bring the engine online five seconds before it’s time to go.

The Audi traffic light system was showcased at the CES in Las Vegas

One bonus of this is that not only will the system speed up traffic, but improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, since the biggest enemy of fuel efficiency is the constant braking and acceleration of city driving. If the cars keep running, that saves fuel and cuts pollution. Audi says that if used consistently, the system could produce a 15 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and save 900 million liters (238 million gal) of petrol annually in Germany alone.

According to Audi, the system, which would be integrated into its Audi connect infotainment system, is production ready and could be fitted to every Audi model currently in production, pending the approval of local legislation.

A prototype of the system was shown off at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in an Audi A6 Saloon, which ran on the city roads, with testing continuing there using 50 sets of traffic lights. In addition, Audi is also testing the system with about 60 sets of traffic lights in Verona, Italy, while 25 cars are being tested in Berlin with 1,000 lights. Audi has yet to release performance figures, but it will be interesting to see how the system operates in the real world.

Source: Audi

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
14 Comments

Awesome. How come no one thought of this earlier?

DaveBG
16th March, 2014 @ 04:43 am PDT

So we'll have a bunch of people dawdling or coasting because the light ahead is apparently red causing congestion behind them so nobody will make it across the light behind them. Or on the flip side fanging it to make the next light? (of which I'm a fan)

Then again, if they fanged it, they'd soon find out that their engines are too far forward and understeer into the pavement which would prove entertaining.

I hope this BS never makes it south of the equator!

Craig Jennings
16th March, 2014 @ 08:13 pm PDT

This could be really dangerous to implement without widespread v2v communications in place. Audi drivers alone will be incentivized incentivized to change their immediate driving style regardless of the traffic and road conditions around them!! If I had this tech, I know I would't be alone racing to catch every green light :)

Humans are fallible- how about we wait till cars are networked and and computers are behind the wheel???

Schreibtribe
16th March, 2014 @ 09:11 pm PDT

One can imagine a sort of cloud computer formed by the interlinked on-board computers in all vehicles within an area. If a primary task of such a computer, systems such as this one would be simplicity itself to install.

The problem, as ever, would be how to manage the period of transition between what we have now and that where all vehicles are part of such an integrated traffic management system. However, the transition would be facilitated by the obvious increased safety such a system would provide. It would follow that all vehicles so equipped would attract (very) favourable insurance rates.

Mel Tisdale
17th March, 2014 @ 02:13 am PDT

silly

how many cities even coordinate any lights?

how many on minor roads?

how many of them will operate, supportm and maintain this driver-com system?

and why would they do that?

wle
17th March, 2014 @ 08:16 am PDT

This is a great system that will make for less stop and go traffic, and less traffic line-ups that crawl along at walking speed.

It will also cut down on drivers weaving in and out thru traffic, which is a big cause of road rage and accidents. Less accidents means less traffic delays.

Once this system is in place and co-ordinated with traffic lights, all the nay-sayers will love it.

robo
17th March, 2014 @ 09:28 am PDT

And if the traffic light management teams and the councils that employ them were not as dumb as the traffic light systems they would have installed traffic lights that measure traffic flow and density and be operating to ensure no one needed a £30,000 in order to travel through town in the most economical and efficient way.

uksnapper
17th March, 2014 @ 10:13 am PDT

While there will be individual fuel savings, there is no way that this will solve the majority of traffic problems. Many traffic signals are based on a demand light system that is not on timers to start with. In addition, it only works for those who are willing to pay for the system and mobile data access.

The problem is that most demand systems are triggered as a countdown when the traffic on the sidestreet arrives and switches the light solely on that timing, not based on the most efficient time to change the light for the main street. That often means that the sidestreet traffic stares at an empty intersection for 30 seconds and the light changes green for them just as 20 cars arrive (and have to stop) on the main street.

An efficient system that would help ALL drivers and save the most fuel would look down the road a few hundred meters in all directions and base traffic signal changes based on the most efficient energy solution IN THE MOMENT. Switching lights based solely on timing, even if it varies slightly during the day, can't be efficient for traffic in both directions as most cross streets are not at consistent intervals.

inchman254
17th March, 2014 @ 10:24 am PDT

I can't believe all of the naysayers!!! I think it's a great idea. As long as non-participants don't screw up the system by zooming in front of you, racing up to the red light and making you have to brake because they have to start up from a dead stop. That happens when I try to "play the lights". My father, a truck driver, taught me this procedure many years ago. In a truck with 14 gears, it's a lot of trouble stopping and then going thru all those gears to get back up to speed.

jeffrey
17th March, 2014 @ 11:00 pm PDT

I know how long the stop lights I drive through every day are red and/or are green. When I try to "play the lights" by slowing down I get horns, dirty looks and middle fingers. I do smile and wave as I pass drivers who have passed me only too get stopped at the red light.

Speeding up to "play the lights" is acceptable by most drivers. I assume Audi's system will be speeding up not slowing down otherwise I do not believe it will be acceptable.

Coca
19th March, 2014 @ 04:22 pm PDT

"Speeding up to "play the lights" is acceptable by most drivers"

Except the ones with red and blue lights.

Andrew Zuckerman
19th March, 2014 @ 09:46 pm PDT

Years ago (many, in case you were wondering) there was a long stretch of a city boulevard in Sacramento CA where signs were posted saying that the signals were set of 35 mph. I worked really well. Rudimentary of course, but maintaining flow has been a concern for decades. If the traffic light system (assuming there is one) can work off of sensors and some algorithms that adapt to traffic flows (and emergency vehicles) it might be easier to implement than having this type of system on all vehicles.

Bruce H. Anderson
31st March, 2014 @ 09:11 am PDT

In Argentina we have what we call"green wave" most of the streets have this. There are signs(permanent and electronics) that announce the speed you have to drive to hit all green, very easy and has been on for years!! better than on demand, since many of these systems make you stop for only one car that just got to the intersection and activated the sensor telling the traffic light control the a car is waiting .

Marcelo Romero
6th April, 2014 @ 07:38 am PDT

A much better system would use street based signs to provide feedback to drivers on adjusting their speed. Likewise, smart traffic signals should be able to dynamically adjust their red/green cycles based on traffic conditions. A fuller description of such as system can be found here: http://estrellaverdetechnology.com/carts/CARTS.pdf

QLeap
24th April, 2014 @ 04:27 pm PDT
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