Waiting for a green light is perhaps the worst of all driving frustrations. You’re sitting there idling behind some station wagon, there’s nothing but commercials on the radio and when, dear God, will this traffic light change colors so I can inch my way onward?
Now, your car will tell you.
Audi will debut software in select 2017 models that communicates with municipal traffic light systems to predict when lights will go from red to green.
Some cities already monitor traffic patterns, and Audi and its supplier, Traffic Technology Services, will harvest that data and use it to tell drivers how long they’ll be sitting there.
The software will appear in select 2017 Audi Q7, A4 and A4 all-road models with Audi connect, a data subscription service that comes free on all new Audis.
Audi expects to have the system running in at least five major metropolitan cities by the end of the year. Those cities will be announced within the next month, a company spokesman said.
The software marks a step toward connecting individual cars to a metropolitan traffic grid, a vision automakers see as crucial to self-driving-friendly roadways. Autonomous vehicles, to keep from crashing into one another, need to know where other cars are. One way to do that is by equipping each vehicle with sensors. A second way is to allow vehicles to communicate with existing infrastructure, like stoplights, to detect traffic patterns.
"This feature represents Audi’s first step in vehicle-to-infrastructure integration," said Pom Malhotra, Audi’s general manager of connected vehicles in a news release. "In the future we could envision this technology integrated into vehicle navigation, start/stop functionality and [it] can even be used to help improve traffic flow in municipalities. These improvements could lead to better overall efficiency and shorter commuting times."
While waiting at a red light, the Audis will project the estimated waiting time on the car’s instrument cluster as well as its head-up display, according to the release.
The feature could also be a boon to air quality. Some vehicles are programmed to shut themselves down when idling in traffic. If cars know how long they’ll be waiting, carmakers could improve their emissions.
And at the very least, you’ll know how long you’ll be sitting in rush hour traffic.