Audi is offering drivers a glimpse of what can happen when vehicles communicate with traffic infrastructure. Executives with the German car brand said Monday that they are introducing a feature on selected 2017 models that will inform drivers when traffic signals will turn from red to green.
When motorists are waiting at a traffic light, information displayed in the vehicle’s instrument cluster, and in some cases, on the head-up display, will count down the time remaining until a signal turns green. The feature will be available on the 2017 Audi Q7, A4, and Allroad starting this fall.
It works via an on-board LTE data connection that receives real-time information from servers managed by Traffic Technology Services, a private company. TTS partners with government agencies and private vendors that work under contract for municipalities to harness signal data at select locations around the country.
These improvements could lead to better overall efficiency and shorter commuting times.
Audi’s traffic-light information system is one of the first features available to mainstream drivers that uses vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology. Many industry executives believe V2I eventually will deliver real-time information on road conditions, traffic flow, and more. Audi says the new system is the first step in exploring the potential of V2I technology and is likely to be a springboard toward more ambitious uses.
“In the future, we could envision this technology integrated into vehicle navigation and [engine] stop-start functionality, and it could even be used to help improve traffic flow in municipalities,” said Pom Malhotra, general manager for Audi’s connected vehicles division. “These improvements could lead to better overall efficiency and shorter commuting times.”
The traffic-light system does not count all the way down to zero. Audi spokesperson Justin Goduto said the timer disappears once it reaches five seconds remaining. It’s designed that way, he explained, so drivers’ attention will be focused on the signal change and the broader traffic environment, not on an indicator in the car.
There are limitations though, the feature is available as part of the Audi Connect PRIME package, which provides enhanced navigation functions such as Google Street View and real-time traffic information, at a cost of $199 for a six-month subscription. Cities also need to be properly equipped with the right traffic-signal technology to communicate with the cars. Audi says the traffic-signal system will be available in “select cities and metropolitan areas,” with further information to be made available in the next few months.