Get ready to see ‘v2i’ a lot in the next few years — short for vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, it’s a concept that involves cities, sensors, and smart technology that could make driving a lot easier and a lot safer for everyone on the road. Audi is getting us started in Las Vegas — the company has reached an agreement with the city to get their cars connected to Las Vegas’ grid of smart sensors.
At the outset, the feature will be something of a novelty. 2017 Audi A4, Q7, and all-road vehicles can now be equipped with a feature called Traffic Light Information. Part of Audi’s Connect Prime suite of infotainment services, Traffic Light Information will tell you exactly how long you have to wait at a red light before it turns green. How? Las Vegas is experimenting with a smart grid, which uses sensors around the city to monitor traffic and adjust traffic lights accordingly. Audi cars can now get real-time information from that smart city system, so you’ll know exactly how much time you have to find the right song before the light turns green. The feature also predicts whether or not you’ll make the intersection, so you can prepare to slow down. Audi says that they believe this new feature can really help reduce stress levels while driving.
Humble beginnings, but it could be the start of a transformative new movement in auto technology. In the future, Audi and other car companies could use all that smart city data to actively find the best route through a city, taking into account how long red lights will last and which roads are currently clogged with traffic. It would be like using Waze, but without having to use an app to look at traffic at all. Your car will just know, and point you in the right direction.
There’s plenty more to expect from v2i technology. Some cities are testing out sensor grids that can spot pedestrians and cyclists — by keeping track of their position in real time, drivers will be able to see where cyclists and pedestrians are in their immediate area on their car’s mapping system. There’s a lot more work to do, though, and it has to come from both sides — cities will have to invest a lot of money to install the infrastructure, while car companies (and Apple and Google through CarPlay and Android Auto) will need to work out how best to connect to those smart grids and use the data made available.
Some have already gotten started — GE is running pilot programs in San Diego and Jacksonville, using smart lights and sensors in street lights. And, that’s the strange, fascinating part about v2i — rolling out these features will have to be done city by city. Seeing how tech companies and cities navigate the smart city concept won’t be easy, but there are certainly benefits to be had for cities that decide to make the leap.