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Audi traffic light recognition system needs to be green-lighted

New technology will turn future Audis into traffic light whisperers.

Waiting at traffic lights is an unfortunate aspect of driving and one that can frustrate and waste fuel, often in equal measure. Audi has attempted to come up with a solution in the form of a traffic light recognition system that aims to make red lights a thing of the past.

The technology, which was first unveiled at CES 2013, involves Audi Connect linking up with the local traffic light network via WiFi. In doing so the system can check how long before a red light becomes green, allowing it to calculate out how fast to drive to avoid stopping. Alternatively, if already stationary, it can use the information to let you know how long before you can proceed.

The system is linked to Audi’s Start-Stop engine feature. Five seconds before the traffic lights change the engine is automatically restarted. The colour of the traffic light and related information can be viewed in the instrument cluster.

Benefits include no more waiting at a red light when no one else is around and keeping a car from slowing down unnecessarily. Audi estimates the reduction in stop and start motoring could save Germany 900 million litres of fuel annually and reduce CO2 emissions by 15 per cent.

Currently the system is being tested in Verona, Italy. Twenty five Audi customers are also testing it out in Berlin, Germany. Before that it was on display in Las Vegas.

“The fully functional system is now production ready and could be fitted to every Audi model in the range subject to the necessary government legislation,” Audi commented.

Exactly how well traffic light recognition works in practice remains to be seen. Will it, for instance, distinguish between a filter light and your road position? There’s also the issue of Audi getting access to the aforementioned traffic light information it needs to make it work.

This is not the first attempt at revamping the modern-day traffic light. We reported on a system known as Virtual Traffic Lights back in 2012 that uses short-range communication and an algorithm to govern which traffic light has priority, with an in-car green light giving the go-ahead.

Meanwhile clever people at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced they were devising SignalGuru. Like Audi’s technology, the MIT system calculates the optimum speed of travel to keep you from stopping at a red light.

We hope traffic light recognition comes to a production Audi soon, given the benefits. Brits already waste enough time waiting in queues.

Audi traffic light recognition video


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