Green light for technology to allow cars talk to traffic lights

Car giants Audi is rolling out technology that will allow its cars to talk with traffic signals, allowing for a more stress-free drive in what it says is the industry’s first commercial use of the nascent technology.

Audi of America, which is owned by Volkswagen, said select 2017 Q7 and A4 models built after June 1, 2016, will be equipped with its vehicle-to-infrastructure technology.

Known in the industry as “V-to-I”, the technology allows traffic lights and other infrastructure to exchange safety and other operational data wirelessly to vehicles over the cloud.

Eventual applications of the technology, which continues to be tested across the globe by carmakers and transportation agencies, will help mitigate crashes and reduce congestion on roads and motorways.

“This is our foray into V-to-I,” said Pom Malhotra, general manager of Audi’s connected vehicles division. “This is designed not as a safety feature but a comfort and convenience feature.”

Audi’s system allows the car to display a countdown before a red light turns to green. Knowing how much time one has before the light changes to green will relieve much of the anxiety of waiting, Malhotra said.

The countdown will also appear on the dashboard if the vehicle determines it will not be able to make an approaching light before it turns red, to allow the driver to begin to brake.

While waiting for a red light to turn green, the display will disappear a few seconds before the light turns green, forcing drivers to pay attention to the intersection and determine when it is safe to proceed, said Malhotra.

Future applications of the technology could see it linked to the car’s navigation system or its stop/start functions.

Another possible eventual use is that traffic signals could advise the vehicle to keep to a certain speed in order to match the flow of traffic lights, executives said.

Audi plans to roll out the capability in five to seven US cities this year. The company would not disclose which cities would be first.

Carmakers are trying to leverage technology — including vehicle-to-vehicle communications (“V-to-V”) allowing cars to talk to each other — to reduce accidents and improve congestion.

Deploying such systems is a challenge because both V-to-I and V-to-V technologies require not only secure communications infrastructure, but close co-operation with municipalities and transportation agencies.


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