Red lights aren't just torture devices that make your daily commute worse or God's way of keeping you from having fun; they're also a huge waste of fuel. Tackling that problem, Audi demonstrated Wednesday in Germany its "travolution" technology that enables cars to communicate with traffic singles using wireless LANs and UMTS links so drivers can better time the lights and reduce fuel consumption.
It's not just the flow of traffic that's improved by missing red lights--a 2006 study revealed that reducing waiting times at traffic lights could cut fuel consumption by 17 percent. In Germany, this calculation would save almost 185,000 gallons of fuel each year.
Essentially, travolution syncs cars with traffic lights, and uses an adaptive algorithm to tell the driver at what speed they need to drive in order to miss a red light, or hopefully, make a green light.
Alternatively, drivers can set their car on adaptive cruise-control and the car automatically adjust speeds for them. Reducing the time cars spend at a standstill and accelerating translates directly to reduced fuel consumption.
BMW is also testing similar technology and is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation to upgrade traffic signals and bring this fuel-saving measure to American drivers.
According to Audi's news statement, the potential of this feature is enormous:
"If this new technology were applied throughout Germany, exhaust emissions could be lowered by about two million tonnes of CO2 annually, equivalent to a reduction of approximately 15 percent in CO2 from motor vehicles in urban traffic."
But how this technology will affect drivers not privy to Audi's traffic ESP and who have no idea why you're driving 10 miles an hour on a main arterial road is still uncertain.
There are other benefits of putting your car online: lines at gas stations could also get shorter. Giving new meaning to car technology that pays for itself, travolution could enable cars to communicate with payment terminals at gas stations and parking garages and through the car's Multimedia Interface, allow payment to debit automatically from the driver's account or credit card.
I predict huge success if this technology is applied at fast-food drive-throughs.