Audi cars 'will talk to traffic lights', firm says
Audi is introducing technology that will allow its cars to communicate with traffic lights, the manufacturer has announced.
It will tell drivers when lights are due to turn green and when they will not make it before a light turns red.
The firm said it was meant to make driving less stressful, rather than as a safety aid, it was reported.
It will require a significant investment to make it viable in the UK, one expert said.
According to Audi, the "vehicle-to-infrastructure" or "V-to-I" technology has been introduced in A4 models built after 1 June this year and will be put into some Q7 models next year.
The Volkswagen-owned firm said safety and other operational information will be wirelessly transmitted between traffic lights and vehicles over the cloud.
Although it is hoped that the tech will eventually help mitigate crashes and reduce congestion on roads and highways, Pom Malhotra, the general manager of Audi's connected vehicles division, told reporters: "This is designed not as a safety feature, but a comfort and convenience feature."
Audi's system allows the vehicle 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. It will also cause drivers to pay attention as the light is about to turn, Malhotra said.
The countdown will also tell drivers when they are not going to be able to make an approaching light before it turns red, thereby signalling that the driver should start to brake.
Future applications of the technology could see it linked to the car's navigation system or its stop and start functions, the Reuters news agency reported.
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, Audi executives said.
The firm plans to roll out the capability in between five and seven US cities one at a time this year, although the company would not disclose which would be first.
Audi has pioneered the use of traffic light recognition technology and is looking to expand on its work, said Aston University's professor of industry David Bailey.
He told the BBC: "It could bring benefits in easing journey time. For example, if you are driving through a city at a quiet time of day with little other traffic, the lights could switch to let you through.
"We would need to see a substantial investment in infrastructure here in the UK to make such technologies workable.
"Longer term, though, we are looking at the development of connected and autonomous cars that will communicate with each other and the infrastructure around them."