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Audi tech counts down red lights today, reduces traffic tomorrow

  • Audi

     (Audi)

  • Audi

     (Audi)

Audi announced today that in Washington D.C. and Las Vegas, select Audi Q7 and A4models will be able to take advantage of new vehicle-to-infrastructure technology. The technology was developed with Traffic Technology Services and will allow drivers to see how long it will take for a traffic light to change to green. Compatible traffic lights will send information through servers operated by Traffic Technology Services to properly equipped Audis. This may not sound like an earth-shattering feature at first, unless you're a stoplight drag racer – if Audi has its way, it may shut off the timer at about 10 seconds to prevent such a thing – but the technology opens up the door to much more useful features down the road.

Audi's general manager for connected vehicles, Pom Malhotra, suggested that the information could be used with "vehicle navigation, engine start/stop functionality and can even be used to help improve traffic flow." More specifically, navigation could account for traffic light timing to divert drivers to a more efficient and faster route. It could even suggest acceleration and speed to hit signals when they're green, minimizing stops and starts. Then, for engine start and stop features, the car could selectively shut off at long stops but remain on when approaching a light that's about to turn green. Traffic lights could also start adjusting patterns based on how many cars are approaching a light or are stuck at a light, alleviating slow-moving traffic. Vehicle-to-infrastructure communication could lead to roads that waste less time and less energy.

While Audi didn't elaborate on this topic, vehicle-to-infrastructure technology could also be useful for futureautonomous car technology. For instance, the car wouldn't necessarily have to "see" the actual traffic light. Instead, it could rely on a separate signal from the smart traffic light to know it has to stop or go. Going a step further, the technology could be used to manage traffic so precisely that traffic signals are no longer needed, assome other groups have investigated. And, of course, the aforementioned benefits in navigation technology would help autonomous vehicles make smarter route decisions as well.

The feature is currently only available on Audi Q7A4 and A4 allroads built after June 1, 2016. It's also only available as part of Audi connect PRIME, a subscription-based service that provides various infotainment and streaming features for your Audi. While D.C. and Vegas are the only cities currently equipped with compatible traffic signals, Audi said additional cities will be added over the coming years.