What if you knew when you stopped at a traffic signal whether you had two minutes or 10 seconds before the light turned green?
That basic information has been shown to provide an extra level of comfort for drivers. And it's part of a new technology coming soon to a vehicle near you.
Frisco, a suburb of Dallas, is joining Las Vegas in connecting its traffic signal network with technology that can alert drivers how much longer they will have to sit at a red light.
"This is the wave of the future," said Frisco Mayor Maher Maso. "It becomes second nature."
It's also the first step in connecting a vehicle to its surroundings as the automotive industry moves toward self-driving cars.
"A lot of people think autonomous vehicles are all about the car," Maso said. "The reality is it's autonomous transportation systems and traffic systems. Everything needs to communicate."
So far, Audi is the only automaker offering this traffic signal information technology. And it's available only on select 2017 Audi A4, Q7 and A4 Allroad models that have an Audi Connect Prime subscription. Other manufacturers are expected to integrate the technology into their own vehicles as the service expands to more cities.
"It's simply getting information into the hands of drivers to make decisions," said Brian Moen, assistant director of engineering services for the city of Frisco.
The first feature, called time to green, provides a display on the instrument panel that counts down the seconds until the red light turns green. Other functions are being tested. In the near future, alternate routes could be calculated based on real-time traffic data and vehicle speeds could be suggested to maximize the number of green lights.
Beyond easing some driver frustration, the technology aims to improve traffic flow and create fuel efficiencies.
Oregon-based Traffic Technology Services Inc. is behind the system.
"These are some of the very first connected vehicle applications that are being implemented," said Kiel Ova, chief marketing officer for the company.
The city sends its traffic signal information to Traffic Technology Services, which then makes it available in real time on a secure network to partners in the automotive industry. The industry then relays the data to individual vehicles.
"We provide a data product second by second for every signalized intersection where we have a connection," Ova said.
Much of what's happening with smart vehicles has been concentrated in private industry or at the university research level. Sharing traffic signal data is one of the first opportunities for cities to get involved, Moen said.
Right now, the data goes one way — from the city's traffic signal network to vehicles. The hope is that vehicles will eventually share information with the city, he said.