Being at a traffic light can sometimes be a source of anxiety on the road, with the red light seemingly taking forever to turn green and letting you get on your way. Audi is aiming to fix this by building-in functionality into their cars to allow them to display a countdown to keep drivers informed of how long they have to wait at stop lights.
The feature is meant to allow the car to communicate with smart city infrastructure via its built-in LTE modem, specifically the centralised traffic light control centre as a form of V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) technology. Allowing cars to have an information stream between themselves and a centralised controller would open the doors to more intelligent management of traffic by communicating traffic and altering traffic lights duration to divert cars away from bottlenecks and obstructions that have formed ahead.
Audi says that the function will be built into the 2017 A4, A4 Allroad, and Q7. However, the final puzzle piece is the most difficult to obtain: smart traffic lights. Most cities do not use a centralised traffic light control computer and are often programmed in batches based on the needs of that particular intersection during installation. What’s more, many cities now employ the use of digital displays that count down the seconds to a light change.
Ingolstadt is banking on more cities to wise up to more intelligent infrastructure solutions, allowing traffic lights to talk back to the cars wanting these types of information. For now, though, Audi is working to bring support for the feature to its cars while working with ‘providers’ - public and private - to have in-car traffic light countdowns active in selected cities before expanding that list throughout 2017 and beyond.
The feature will be displayed on Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster and/or head-up display (assuming the car has them), with a simple counter that closes to zero when the light is about to turn green again. Presumably, the system will also allow the driver to see how many seconds will the light ahead remain green and allow them to proceed to it smoothly. The feature also requires a subscription to the Audi Connect Prime service.
If more cities support more intelligent management of traffic infrastructure and opens that up (partially) for access to compatible vehicles, more automakers will follow Audi’s lead and integrate smart traffic light information and other intelligent traffic solutions that the technology makes possible. That wait, however, for governments to act on this may be a long one.