Audi wants OK for system that lets you beat red lights, save gas

The company just needs a green light from regulators to start rolling out a time-saving feature to its future cars.

Imagine the scene. Your car pulls on to a road and in the distance is a set of traffic lights. But that’s okay because the car already knows and is showing on its display the optimum speed to adopt in order to cruise right through them before they change from green to red.

However, it’s not always possible to beat the lights — without breaking the speed limits and other rules of the road — so the system can also count down the time until the lights will change and use that time to automatically shut down the engine and then fire it up again five seconds before it’s time to pull off again.

Audi calls it the Audi Online Traffic Light Information System and it is yet another example of all the positive benefits the internet of things and machine-to-machine communication could bring to our lives. The company calculates that if the system went live only in Germany, it has the potential to cut CO2 emissions by up to 15% and could save as many as 900 million gallons of fuel.

The system works by using a car’s onboard internet connection to communicate with the traffic light network via the central traffic computer in a town or city and is currently being trailed in Las Vegas with 50 sets of traffic lights.

Similar tests are also underway in Europe — 25 Audi drivers are testing the system in Berlin where the cars can communicate with 1,000 sets of lights. A smaller study is also underway in the Italian city of Verona, where 60 sets of traffic lights have been adapted to talk to Audis.

While Audi is making swift progress and is already analyzing a potential launch of the system in the US, it is by no means the only car maker involved in such tests. Volvo demonstrated its own take on the same technology in Sweden in June.

As well as regulating speed between traffic light sets, the system also alerts drivers when a police car or other emergency services vehicle is in the vicinity and requires right of way and, thanks to a connection with other cars on the road, can provide a driver with live updates regarding road conditions, be it congestion or meteorological problems such as ice on the road surface.

Audi says that if the technology is signed off by regulators, it could be installed in all of its new cars now.