Road Frustration Index

Audi's latest ad campaign for the new 2012 A6 claims to want to make the road "a more intelligent place," starting with asking drivers to pledge to be on their best behavior while behind the wheel. At the top of the German automaker's list of sins is driving while drinking a latte, leading us to perceive the effort as only half serious. (Notably absent from the list is "I will give my keys to a sober friend after consuming six liters of lager at Oktoberfest.") Still, those who promise fealty to Audi enter a contest to win a trip to the Audi Sportscar Experience driving school, which we can guarantee is a lot more fun than the signing a pledge of, say, abstinence.

More to the point, however, is another new initiative, the Road Frustration Index. It's a clever mashup of data from Weather.com, traffic information from NAVTEQ, and Twitter feeds to show just how miserable life on the road is these days. Big metro areas are ranked in real time, with records dating back to early Sept. Audi didn't dream this thing up all on its own, but partnered with the Senseable City Laboratory at MIT to lend an air of credibility to the project, if nothing else. The Road Frustration Index is routinely tagging Sacramento, CA, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., as the most frustrating places to drive, which seems reasonable.

While Audi and the researchers at MIT are using factors other than just road congestion to come up with their rankings, a quick cross-check of the Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University shows some overlap. TTI's 2011 edition has Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and New York atop its congestion rankings.

While we will grant kudos to Audi for acknowledging just how miserable life can be out there in the commuter world, at the end of the day, this is still an ad campaign. And while a new A6 might make your commute a heck of a lot more enjoyable, it's quite a stretch to suggest the car is one of the "solutions" to improving the state of our roads.