Audi debuts traffic light technology that counts down to a green light

A driver who knows when a red light will turn green is more relaxed and aware, says Audi. 

(AP Photo/John Locher)
The dashboard of an Audi A4 is seen during a demonstration of Audi's vehicle-to-infrastructure technology Dec. 6, 2016, in Las Vegas. The technology allows vehicles to "read" red lights ahead and tell the driver how long it'll be before the signal turns green. For the driver, the system puts a traffic signal icon on the dashboard telling how many seconds the light will remain red.

On the theory that a driver who knows when a red light will turn green is more relaxed and aware, vehicle manufacturer Audi is unveiling this week in Las Vegas a technology that enables vehicles to "read" traffic signals ahead and tell the motorist how long the wait will be.

It's a simple display for the driver — a dashboard traffic signal icon and a timer next to the digital vehicle speed and area speed limit displays already common in newer cars.

The technology behind it is more complex. It uses 4G LTE cellular communication between the vehicle and a centralized traffic management control network— dubbed vehicle-to-infrastructure or "V2I." Audi offers it through a subscription service not unlike commercial satellite radio. The company calls it "traffic light information."

Company executive Pom Malhotra terms it "time to green."

"You don't have to constantly stare at the traffic light. You have that information right in front of you," Malhotra told reporters who test-drove the system Tuesday in vehicles on and around Las Vegas Strip.

Can't see the light because there's a tour bus ahead? No problem. The icon says you have 37 seconds.

"A lot of behavior in the car changes," Malhotra said. "You have time to relax your hands and shoulders ... time to hand a milk bottle to your child in the back seat ... while knowing you're not taking attention away from the road."

Audi and Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada officials said Tuesday that Las Vegas was picked for the first-in-the-nation debut because it has a single centralized traffic management center covering all jurisdictions in Clark County, a region nearly the size of New Jersey.

Malhotra said Audi hopes to expand the system soon to other big U.S. cities, including places like Los Angeles, which have patchwork traffic management systems run by varying jurisdictions in a sprawling urban landscape.

The Las Vegas-area program, dubbed the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation, or FAST, collects data and synchronizes 1,300 traffic signals in a region home to more than 2 million people and host to more than 40 million tourists a year. It also has 508 cameras and freeway flow detectors, and controls 106 message signs and freeway on-ramp meters.

Tina Quigley, transportation commission general manager, said other car companies will be able to tap into the Las Vegas data, which she said should improve mobility and safety — particularly in the congested Las Vegas Strip tourist corridor and around McCarran International Airport.

About 150 Audi owners are using the system in Las Vegas, Malhotra said.

The car company official called the debut of the commercial service "a small step forward in V2I," but a key demonstration of the kind of technology that will enable vehicle-to-vehicle communication and driverless cars.

Using cellular communication for smart car systems differs from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-traffic signal programs using dedicated short-range communication.

DSRC has been tested since 2012 at the University of Michigan, said Debra Bezzina, senior program manager for the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment. The university Transportation Research Institute program is backed by several federal traffic safety, research, trucking and transit agencies, and pilot programs are slated for Wyoming, New York and Tampa, Florida.

Bezzina said properly equipped vehicles with DSRC are able to detect traffic signal phase signals at intersections.

"If the light has turned yellow, it can tell the driver, 'You're not going to make the light,'" Bezzina said.

Audi spokesman Mark Dahncke said his company expects other car companies will develop similar cellular-enabled technology, or could piggyback with its program contractor, Traffic Technology Services.

"We are blazing a trail that does not lock anyone else out," Dahncke said.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Audi debuts traffic light technology that counts down to a green light
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2016/1207/Audi-debuts-traffic-light-technology-that-counts-down-to-a-green-light
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe