Audi Backs Travolution Test to Synchronize Cars and Traffic Lights

By Chris Haak

09.22.2008

Audi announced that it has thrown its support into a project called Travolution to facilitate communication between specially-equipped vehicles and specially-equipped traffic lights to conserve fuel and reduce driving times.

The system works by allowing traffic lights in the vicinity of a vehicle to transmit messages to cars in the vicinity, alerting them to how much time remains until they turn green.  For its part, the car will then provide its driver with the precise speed she must travel pass through the light while it is green, displayed on the car’s navigation screen.

The test network is installed in Audi’s home city of Ingolstadt, with 46 of the special traffic lights installed so far that are linked together in a network to coordinate their phasing, while three of the 46 lights have been upgraded at this point to communicate with the special Audi A6 Avant and A5 models provided by Audi as part of the project.  Eventually, 20 additional cars and 50 additional traffic light installations will be incorporated into the project.

If the Travolution project, with Audi’s assistance, can somehow develop a standard for intelligent traffic lights as well as intra-vehicle communications, not only would CO2 emissions be reduced by eliminating fuel wasted at traffic lights, but vehicle-to-vehicle communication could also enhance accident avoidance.  Further, I’d imagine that it would also be possible to have the car slam on its brakes if the driver inadvertently fails to notice a red light and stop for it, preventing a disastrous collision.

There are, of course, “Big Brother”-type concerns with any technology that allows communication between a vehicle and government-operated traffic control devices.  It’s also possible that law enforcement could have the traffic management system give all red lights to a particular car if they felt that car was trying to flee from their pursuit; both of these concerns could be addressed by thoroughly encrypting all information transmitted between the car and the system and keeping indivudally-identifying information inside the vehicle itself and never transmitting it.

I have an extremely frustrating string of about 30 traffic lights during my commute, many of which turn green only to plop me in front of a red light at the next block, so a system like this would be a godsend for me.  If this system were to be perfected, perhaps its engineers could then develop a way to facilitate driver-to-driver communication (rather than vehicle-to-vehicle) in a way other than honking horns and gestures.  Wouldn’t it be nice to politely tell someone that their turn signal has been on for the past seven miles?  Meanwhile, I’m all for a technology that saves time, fuel, and frustration, and has the potential to also improve safety.

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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