The light fantastic

Vehicle-to-infrastructure becomes a reality in Las Vegas.

In Las Vegas, Audi models have begun interacting with existing infrastructure to create a more streamlined, more efficient and less stressful driving experience.

8 December, 2016

No more racing to ‘beat’ the lights, not in Las Vegas anyway. Audi has started the first true Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) in the desert city, with A4 and Q7 models now employing the technology to make a journey not only less stressful but more economical. It is also a major step forward in the move towards piloted driving, which will rely on networking in the future.

Obviously if you know in advance when a traffic light will switch from red to green, your driving is more relaxed and efficient. Audi is the first automobile brand to connect the car to the city infrastructure – an important step towards autonomous driving. 

Trials of the Car-to-X technology have been underway in cities around the world for some time, with the author experiencing first hand how the system alters attitudes and indeed driving styles on a test run in Berlin.

Now in Las Vegas, the Audi A4 and Q7 models will display traffic-light phases directly in the car and plans are well advanced for other cities in the US and across Europe to follow. “For the first time, our cars are exchanging data with traffic infrastructure in real time. Drivers can adapt their behavior to the situation and move through city traffic in a much more relaxed and controlled way,” says Andreas Reich, head of Electronics Pre-Development at AUDI AG. “We increase energy efficiency when we connect our Audi models to smart cities. Further V2I services will follow, making the car into an interactive mobile device. We see autonomous driving as the end of this development.”

As a first step, all Audi A4 and Q7 models produced for the U.S. market since June 2016 and equipped with Audi connect will have this function on board. In the USA, municipal traffic management centres will communicate the traffic-light data to Audi’s project partner Traffic Technology Services TTS. Here the data are prepared and sent to the on-board computer in the Audi via a fast Internet connection, for example 4G/LTE, in real time. 

The first function of the Traffic Light Information V2I component is called Time-to-Green. In the Audi virtual cockpit or head-up display, drivers see whether they will reach the next light on green while travelling within the permitted speed limit. If not, a countdown is provided of the time remaining until the next green phase – and drivers can take their foot off the accelerator in good time. Pilot projects in Europe have shown that drivers exercise more foresight thanks to this information about traffic lights. This has a beneficial overall effect on traffic flow. “In our tests the the number of cars that had to brake to a standstill in traffic fell by around 20 percent. This saved time for the driver and also made fuel savings of about 15 percent in the pilot project,” says Michael Zweck, project manager for Audi Traffic Light Information. 

Initially Audi customers will use this service, with the development work that Audi is investing in traffic-light systems also benefiting customers of other brands in future. The increasing spread of the technology will help city traffic planners to understand the causes of hold-ups and optimise the phasing of traffic lights. 

In future Traffic Light Information could be linked up to smart navigation and used for new powering concepts. For example, “green waves” in traffic-light sequences could be incorporated in route planning. It is also conceivable that Audi e-tron models could make greater use of braking energy by charging the battery as they decelerate at a red light. 

The sky is the limit and the technology is here now. The race to catch the green may also be over a and a safer motoring future could be an added benefit.