Audi to Reveal Red Light Secrets

John Lister's picture

Audi will soon fit its cars with a technology that can coordinate with traffic lights in several US cities. According to Audi, the feature is being billed as more about convenience, rather than a safety measure.

The new feature is being built into an existing navigation and information service called Audi Connect, which carries a $25 a month service fee. The feature will involve an extra display on the dashboard that coordinates wirelessly with traffic signals and shows the driver how long they have until the light will turn green if at a full stop.

The theory is that this will let drivers figure out whether they have time to safely attend to other measures such as checking on a child in the back seat, or briefly checking their smart phone before returning their full attention to the wheel.

Drag Racers Will Be Frustrated

The countdown will disappear from the screen with around three seconds left to go. Audi says that's intended to stop reckless drivers using the information to help them in impromptu races with neighboring cars while waiting for the lights to turn green. It should also make sure the driver is fully paying attention to traffic, for example - noticing if a vehicle on a perpendicular road is about to drive through a red light.

There will also be a countdown for green lights turning red, though this will only appear if the system calculates that, based on current speed, the driver won't be able to pass the light before this happens. The idea here is that the driver will now know it's not worth trying to beat the light, and can instead start braking earlier and more safely.

System May Suggest Ideal Speed

Eventually Audi hopes to extend the feature to make more use of the data. One possibility is checking current red-green cycles on several upcoming lights and figuring out the optimum speed to avoid waiting too often. Another is to automatically adjust the car's engine activity to minimize fuel consumption and pollution. (Source:

The system works by connecting with the traffic light data that local authorities use to monitor and manage traffic flows, so it needs city cooperation. Audi says it expects the feature to work in seven US cities this year including Las Vegas, Washington DC and Seattle. However, it may take some time in Los Angeles -- arguably a region where it would be most useful -- because the area is covered by so many different local governments. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you find this technology useful? Does it risk drivers getting into bad habit by taking their eyes off the road? Or is it a case that people do this anyway, so it's better to focus them to doing it at safer times?

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dan400man's picture

In a Utopia with cars, such a system would reduce brake usage to a minimum, such as when needing to turn or in emergency situations. That, I think, I would be the end goal of this technology. In some communities, they actually time the traffic lights so it is conducive to drive the speed limit and hit nothing but green lights for long stretches. (Woodward Avenue in metro Detroit is a good example.)

Unfortunately, as long as individual drivers are allowed to be in control, I don't think this system can be optimized, as too many drivers "need" to be in front and race to the next red light. And the next one.

Still, I find myself enough times approaching green lights wondering can I make it? Do I keep my foot on the gas or coast to what will inevitably be a red light? I won't pay a $10k premium on a car for that solution, but will gladly acknowledge those who care to be on the bleeding (money) edge to push the technology forward.

gmthomas44_4203's picture

$25/Month??? I don't think so! I can (still)see well enough at least three or four lights ahead and can figure out with a fair amount of certainty when it will change or not. 12 X$25 = $300, that I could buy beer or gas with. Just call me an old fogey, but I don't need a car to tell me something I have learned in 50 years of driving experience.

matt_2058's picture

I can see where this might help with fuel economy and congestion. There's nothing like getting across town without hitting a red light. I'm glad they aren't pushing the safety aspect too hard because there is nothing safe about this statement.

"The theory is that this will let drivers figure out whether they have time to safely attend to other measures such as checking on a child in the back seat, or briefly checking their smart phone before returning their full attention to the wheel"

I promise...if you're turned in your seat and get hit from behind, you'll hesitate to ever do it again in traffic. Even doing things while the light is red is dangerous. Traffic approaching a red light that turns green expects the stopped cars to go, and if you're not going, you become the hazard.

Distracted driving is gradually getting out of hand. I ride a motorcycle and have to watch for it constantly. It's bad when the dangers of riding aren't from motorcycle characteristics, but from the car driver eating, talking on the phone, reaching in the back seat, or reading the paper. The worst are the ones holding pets while driving.