Car company unveils red light-reading vehicles

Screens show the feeds from traffic cameras at the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada's FAST traffic management center, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Las Vegas. Audi debuted a technology in Las Vegas that uses 4G LTE cellular communication between a vehicle and a centralized traffic management control network to "read" red lights ahead and tell the driver how long it'll be before the signal turns green. (AP Photo/John Locher)


By Ken Ritter ,AP

LAS VEGAS — On the theory that a driver who knows when a red light will turn green is more relaxed and aware, vehicle manufacturer Audi is unveiling this week in Las Vegas a technology that enables vehicles to “read” traffic signals ahead and tell the motorist how long the wait will be.

It’s a simple display for the driver — a dashboard traffic signal icon and a timer next to the digital vehicle speed and area speed limit displays already common in newer cars.

The technology behind it is more complex. It uses 4G LTE cellular communication between the vehicle and a centralized traffic management control network — dubbed vehicle-to-infrastructure or “V2I.” Audi offers it through a subscription service not unlike commercial satellite radio. The company calls it “traffic light information.”

Company executive Pom Malhotra terms it “time to green.”

“You don’t have to constantly stare at the traffic light. You have that information right in front of you,” Malhotra told reporters who test-drove the system Tuesday in vehicles on and around Las Vegas Strip.

Can’t see the light because there’s a tour bus ahead? No problem. The icon says you have 37 seconds.

“A lot of behavior in the car changes,” Malhotra said. “You have time to relax your hands and shoulders … time to hand a milk bottle to your child in the back seat … while knowing you’re not taking attention away from the road.”

Audi and Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada officials said Tuesday that Las Vegas was picked for the first-in-the-nation debut because it has a single centralized traffic management center covering all jurisdictions in Clark County, a region nearly the size of New Jersey.

Malhotra said Audi hopes to expand the system soon to other big U.S. cities, including places like Los Angeles, which have patchwork traffic management systems run by varying jurisdictions in a sprawling urban landscape.