If you have ever taken the time to travel through more rural parts of Malaysia – that is to say, off the highway – you may have realized that in the last decade or so, more and more traffic lights have popped up along roads that were previously simple main roads. It’s undeniable that traffic lights make it a little safer for those who have to come out of the numerous junctions you find along these rural roads, they also play havoc with the overall flow of traffic. What used to be a fairly smooth journey would become a stop-start hell, especially during peak traffic hours – yes, even within a fairly small town.
If we extrapolate this anecdotal example, we can begin to understand why traffic in urban centres is absolute garbage. It all comes down to how fast drivers can clear these traffic lights, with the reaction time of each driver compounding the wait time. Many car manufacturers have talked about or experimented with the idea of a smart city – one where cars can communicate with the various infrastructures around them and harness that data to make better informed driving decisions.
One of these aspects is communication with traffic light systems, and Audi seems to be on to something with their program in Düsseldorf. By summer of this year, roughly 450 out of the 600 intersections in Düsseldorf will have their traffic lights networked – and in turn, connected to the Audi Traffic Light Information service. Düsseldorf is the second city to roll out this program after Audi’s home town of Ingolstadt, and Audi owners will have access to two functions within the Traffic Light Information service.
The first function is known as GLOSA, or Green Light Optimized Speed Advisory. For those not familiar with the concept of a green wave, it is a system that was introduced decades ago that ideally allows you to travel uninterrupted through a series of traffic lights if you’re at moving at the right speed. With GLOSA, drivers will be informed of how fast they should travel along a road to hit a continuous series of green lights so they don’t need to come to a stop.
Time-to-Green is the second function, and it’s not unlike what we see with some physical traffic light countdown timers here. The timer helps to prime the driver for an impending green light, allowing them to decide if they want to rest off the brakes (if there’s plenty of time before a green) or to get ready to move off (if the green is coming soon). This in turn helps to save fuel as well, when paired with an effective stop-start system.
But there’s a lot more that goes on under the surface than simple green light timers. The system as a whole relies on three sources of data: control of the traffic signals, real-time data that combines everything from road occupation cameras to bus and tram info and even pedestrian crosswalk button presses, and finally historical data. An algorithm takes all of these factors and comes up with an ideal speed for the GLOSA function, adapting and learning over time as it compares real world results with expected results.
Why should it matter to you? While the program is in its fledgling stages, over time it will be rolled out to other parts of the world that have moved towards a smart city concept. It will help to smoothen traffic flow, regardless of whether you’re having the car drive itself, or you maintain a hands on approach. The less often traffic comes to a dead stop, the faster you’re going to move.