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Audi’s connected car feature barely helped me catch more green lights



Easy to toggle on and it seamlessly shows up on your display • Can pace you through most of the connected intersections • The green light icon feels like an Easter egg that magically shows up

Inconsistent and unreliable • Doesn’t work in busier • denser areas • Limited availability even within connected cities

It’s an unnecessary feature that doesn’t add much to the driving experience. If you drive a lot it could be helpful, but don’t pay for the Connect Prime membership just for the GLOSA. The red light information is much more useful.

Stopping at red lights can be super annoying when you’re trying to get  somewhere fast — but lucky for everyone, Audi may have come up with a solution. 

Audi released an update to its vehicle’s “smart” dashboard earlier this year that connects with city infrastructure and displays information about the traffic signals for the driver. Audi the feature the Green Light Optimized Speed Advisory (GLOSA), and it promises to make catching green lights easier with recommendations on driving speeds.

To test this feature, I headed to the two Bay Area locations where the GLOSA is up and running for connected Audi drivers: Palo Alto, Calif., and Walnut Creek, Calif. Audi is working with only certain cities right now to connect enabled vehicles through 4G LTE data to traffic management systems. In the immediate San Francisco city limits, I wasn’t able to get any driving advice. So I headed to the suburbs.

It’s important to note that prior to the GLOSA rollout, Audi released a vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) feature that let its cars “talk” to road infrastructure, like traffic signals. The German carmaker added this to its existing Traffic Light Information System, (TLIS), which shows Audi drivers how long they’ll be waiting at a red light. 

The latest update gives drivers more information about traffic lights, but now instead of sitting at a red light, the dashboard communicating with the traffic signal recommends a speed to drive to hit a green. The connected system knows when the light will turn green, so it can help you pace it out.

Throughout the U.S., the green light advisory feature is available so far in 13 cities at 4,700 intersections. As recently as last year, only 1,000 signals were communicating with cars. It scaled quickly, but it’s still not that widespread — take a look at the map below. And even if it’s at 4,700 intersections, it still feels like the feature is in testing. But it’s technically out of any testing phases, and available for Audi Connect Prime users on some 2017, 2018, and newer Audi models. 

GLOSA is connected across the U.S.

GLOSA is connected across the U.S.

Using the advisory system, drivers should be able to drive through a series of connected lights without stopping. But I didn’t find it that easy to pull off, especially in more urban, busy, downtown areas where the connected signals were mostly located in the two areas I drove through.

Each time I approached a smart, connected traffic signal in a 2019 Audi A8 the company loaned me to try out the GLOSA feature, a mini green traffic signal icon came up on my dashboard and heads-up display. The icon came up next to the speedometer and my current speed. In small numbers next to the green icon it suggested how fast I should go — never over the posted speed limit and nothing ridiculously slow.

Since there weren’t that many GLOSA-enabled intersections around, each time it came on felt like I’d found the prize in a scavenger hunt. Usually by the time I stopped celebrating that the car was in fact in contact with the traffic signal, I’d have to quickly assess if I could even go as fast or slow as it recommended. It was all very quick, and you’re moving and following traffic, so often you’re  approaching the intersection before you realize you’re not going the recommended green-light pace. It wasn’t distracting mostly because it was so fleeting and a subtle addition to the bevy of driver information in front of you.

For a stretch of four lights through a major thoroughfare in suburban Walnut Creek, CA, I managed to sail through the greens, which may or may not have had to do with the advice flashed onto my heads-up display projected on the windshield. 

Audi’s new feature was mostly a disappointment. I was ready to catch the “green wave” of back-to-back green lights the connected car technology promised, but it was more frustrating than smooth sailing. It’s also an unnecessary feature. 

What was easy was turning on the system. I toggled it on in the car’s driver assist settings, and magically the green light icon (and red light timer) came up on my dashboard and display at any “smart” intersections that cities allow companies like Audi to connect with.

Give me that traffic light information.

Give me that traffic light information.

Image: sasha lekach / mashable

Caveats so you don't get your hopes up.

Caveats so you don’t get your hopes up.

Image: sasha lekach / mashable

Mostly the green advice didn’t do much for my drive. Since the recommended speed rarely came up, it wasn’t something I could depend on. And when it did pop up with its advice, I was already driving that speed or it was impossible to match because of other cars or the situation on the road. In the clip below, the small green streetlight icon is the GLOSA, projected on the windshield and below my speedometer. 

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Other times I’d make the light, but I was going below the recommended speed, making me question if the GLOSA was at all effective. Here it said I should go 45 mph but I made it through the intersection around 36 mph. 

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It really felt like a treasure hunt when the GLOSA icon would appear on the dash. Audi’s Balaji Yelchuru, a connectivity senior strategist, told me in a phone call, “not every signal has the ability to be connected,” especially because older systems date back 25 to 50 years. But as Audi is the first car company to connect a car to green light information, he said more cities are interested in making this data available. 

Where all the connected signals are located in Palo Alto, CA.

Where all the connected signals are located in Palo Alto, CA.

More intersections in Walnut Creek, CA.

More intersections in Walnut Creek, CA.

In Palo Alto, GLOSA lights were sparse and concentrated in the busy commercial center of the city. It was nearly impossible to make any of the green lights as I drove down crowded University Avenue. I had more success on a parallel street, but it was still spotty and inconsistent. It didn’t feel like something I could rely on — yet.

Audi’s Yelchuru told me it works best in semi-urban areas without much traffic. In Northern Virginia where he’s based he said he’s made it through 15 intersections in a row following the car’s connected speed advice. 

When it worked — sort of — for a quick moment in Palo Alto, it didn’t really improve the driving experience and was mostly just extraneous information as I tried to make through the downtown area on a rainy evening. I was mostly surprised when the recommended speed came on and only had a few seconds to adjust my driving pace.

Yelchuru hopes the GLOSA can keep expanding and “improve the overall system of travel” by keeping everyone moving and eventually navigating cars onto more efficient routes. He sees the GLOSA working best in autonomous vehicles to let the robo-driver know how fast it should set the vehicle speed.

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As a human driver, while attempting to catch all the green lights, I hit a lot of reds. But that kicked in Audi’s red light counter, which I found helpful — way more useful than the green light advice. This was information I could use, especially when at lights for over a minute. One intersection in suburban Walnut Creek clocked me in for 124 seconds of waiting. It was also accurate, which was crucial.

More than 50 seconds to go, but thanks for telling me.

More than 50 seconds to go, but thanks for telling me.

Image: sasha lekach / mashable

The driver dash let you know how long you'll be waiting.

The driver dash let you know how long you’ll be waiting.

Image: sasha lekach / mashable

It gave me permission to scroll through my music and use the hands-free voice control to read me my text messages. Even if I was stopped, it felt like a time saver, keeping me from scrambling to change the radio station or take a sip of water.

But all those red light countdowns appearing on my screen meant that the “green wave” never really happened. If only all the other cars would get out the way.

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