What if your car displayed the precise speed you needed to drive in order to hit every green light? And what if that same system told you when the light was about to change color?
That's the future, according to Audi. And with beta testing in full force, it's a future that's rapidly approaching.
At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Audi revealed its "Traffic Light Recognition Technology" and offered brief demonstrations around the streets of Las Vegas. We sampled a very pre-production version last June in Berlin, and were initially impressed.
It works by utilizing Audi's in-car 4G cellular data link to establish a connection between the car and a city's traffic light network. As you arrive within the vicinity of a light, it tells you – via the car's infotainment screen – how fast you need to travel in order to skate through on green, as well as a timer displaying when the light will change color. This, according to Audi, would not only save time but also fuel – as well as a possible 15 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. By potentially reducing red-light runners, making drivers less likely to get caught in a yellow-to-red transition, there could be a safety benefit too.
If you're waiting at a stoplight, you will receive the aforementioned countdown to green while the system interacts with the car's start-stop function, bringing the motor back to life five seconds before the light changes.
Testing continues in Las Vegas using 50 sets of lights. In Verona, Italy, a further 60 traffic lights are being utilized for beta testing, while in Berlin, Germany, 25 Audi customers are evaluating the system using 1,000 traffic lights. According to an Audi press release, "A market launch is currently the subject of intense analysis in the United States," and that the system is "fully functional" and ready to be fitted to every Audi in the current range.
Of course this remains subject to government legislation; Audi would need permission to connect to each city's traffic light network before it could implement the technology into production. As the German automaker told Yahoo Autos, that will "certainly require more time," but that the concept could become a reality in the "near term."
When it does, count us in. We'll see if we can beat the Manhattan driver who managed 55 straight green lights, recorded while cruising New York at 3am.