Mike Stevens | Nov 17, 2009

BMW HAS LAUNCHED a study it calls Green Wave, aimed at finding ways to lessen the impact of traffic light signals on emissions and fuel consumption.

Performing tests under ideal conditions, BMW researchers doubled the driving range of a 530d by changing the timing of traffic lights on a stretch of road in Munich.

While BMW acknowledged that adopting such a system would be unrealistic, the German company believes advanced, adaptive traffic signals could improve fuel economy - for any car - by 10 to 15 percent.

According to BMW, its Green Wave study has so far shown that a minimum of four green lights in a row can improve overall traffic flow.

"Think about the money that’s being spent to save one, two percent… and with a relatively small investment you could save much more,” BMW’s Traffic Technology and Traffic Management boss Dirk Kessler said.

sydney-traffic

In Australia - and in many other countries - traffic signals are managed by the Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS), which uses existing knowledge of common traffic flows in a given area, and pattern detection along a particular road, to dynamically alter signal rate.

According to the RTA NSW, traffic light coordination "is often determined by the direction of the main traffic flow; for example the morning peak hour.

However, the signal coordination is not determined by the time of day, so for example when there is a large traffic flow heading home from the beach, the traffic lights will adapt to minimise delays on that route."

Of course, as any motorist who's been caught at multiple consecutive red lights or a traffic jam at the end of a huge event knows, there is room for improvement.

Fellow German carmaker Audi has been working on a solution of its own, in cooperation with the city of Ingolstadt (Audi's hometown), called Travolution.

Audi's system includes wireless broadcasting modules installed on traffic lights, that transmit data to cars fitted with the necessary receiver.

A computer aboard the car then calculates the speed - slower or faster (within reason) - that the car would need to maintain to make it through the intersection without coming to a complete stop.

“The system, largely developed at the Technical University of Munich, has significantly reduced stopping due to traffic lights, while also minimizing traffic-related pollution," Prof Dr Fritz Busch, Professorial Chair for Traffic Technology at the Technical University of Munich said.

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