Travolution at Audi

A prototype system from Audi claims to enable traffic lights to communicate with each other and with cars, allowing drivers to sail through rush-hour traffic and reduce wasted fuel.

The €1.2m (£900,000) EU Travolution project aims to keep urban traffic moving, avoiding the stop-start driving that frustrates drivers, wastes petrol and increases CO2emissions.

Audiproject manager Cornelius Menig said: ’The motivation behind the project is making inner city traffic more efficient. There will be less waiting at lights, less fuel consumption and less noise.’

The basic system consists of a module inside the vehicle and a communication unit inside the traffic light control. The device receives a signal from the traffic light via wireless LAN technology. When it is about to turn green, the software calculates the optimum average speed needed to get through on that phase and displays it to the driver on a dashboard multimedia interface.

’We show the driver a band between minimum and maximum optimal speed so he or she can ride the green wave,’ said Menig. ’There is no need to go at a certain speed, so the driver can adapt to the traffic flow. We think that knowing the appropriate speed will reduce accidents caused by abrupt braking.’

The other part of the system is the online optimisation of traffic lights using computation. Synchronisation and traffic light phasing based on the actual traffic situation is carried out every five minutes between local controls at every intersection and a computing unit in the city traffic management centre. Every traffic light additionally optimises locally within the boundaries given by the central phasing.

Travolution is the brainchild of traffic management experts in Ingolstadt, Germany, where Audi has its headquarters. For the pilot, a network of 46 ’intelligent’ traffic lights has been installed in the town which run software that optimises phasing to minimise stopping times.

Of the intelligent traffic lights, three have the full version of the software which allows communication directly with specially-modified A5 and A6 Audi Avant models. It need not be installed in all vehicles to bring benefits — Audi estimates that an adoption level of around 10 per cent will bring measurable improvements in traffic flow.

In the next phase of the project, a further 20 cars and 50 traffic lights will be incorporated into the pilot. Audi estimates that the current installation at half the lights in Ingolstadt has reduced stopping at intersections by 17 per cent.

Berenice Baker