Audi's general manager for connected vehicles, Pom Malhotra, suggested that the information could be used with "vehicle navigation, engine start/stop functionality and can even be used to help improve traffic flow." More specifically, navigation could account for traffic light timing to divert drivers to a more efficient and faster route. It could even suggest acceleration and speed to hit signals when they're green, minimizing stops and starts. Then, for engine start and stop features, the car could selectively shut off at long stops but remain on when approaching a light that's about to turn green. Traffic lights could also start adjusting patterns based on how many cars are approaching a light or are stuck at a light, alleviating slow-moving traffic. Vehicle-to-infrastructure communication could lead to roads that waste less time and less energy.
While Audi didn't elaborate on this topic, vehicle-to-infrastructure technology could also be useful for future autonomous car technology. For instance, the car wouldn't necessarily have to "see" the actual traffic light. Instead, it could rely on a separate signal from the smart traffic light to know it has to stop or go. Going a step further, the technology could be used to manage traffic so precisely that traffic signals are no longer needed, as some other groups have investigated. And, of course, the aforementioned benefits in navigation technology would help autonomous vehicles make smarter route decisions as well.
The feature is currently only available on Audi Q7, A4 and A4 allroads built after June 1, 2016. It's also only available as part of Audi connect PRIME, a subscription-based service that provides various infotainment and streaming features for your Audi. While D.C. and Vegas are the only cities currently equipped with compatible traffic signals, Audi said additional cities will be added over the coming years.