Imagine if you could take the kids to school, commute to work or drive across town to do some shopping without ever hitting a single red traffic light, just as actor James Corden does in the latest Confused.com advert.
Well, that may soon be possible with some new technology that Ford are trying out over the next couple of years on both public roads and closed circuits in Milton Keynes and Coventry as part of the nation’s largest self-driving and connected car trial for UK Autodrive.
Technology called Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory is currently being trialled with Ford cars to make “riding the green wave” something that could actually be real one day, with the system using "information on traffic light timings from a roadside unit to display to the driver the best speed to travel at to get a green light." (So there is still some work for the driver to do when it comes to approaching a traffic light rather than it changing just for them - as it does for Mr Corden!)
"There’s not much worse after a long day than to hit one red light after another on the drive home, and be forced to stop and start again at every junction," said Christian Ress, supervisor, Driver Assist Technologies, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. "Enabling drivers to ‘ride the green wave’ also means a smoother, continuous journey that helps to improve the flow of traffic and provide significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption."
Research has shown that drivers in the UK that take to the road every day will spend around two days each year waiting at red lights, and although the system is not entirely infallible when it comes to non-stop driving, at least a display in the car will show you how long it will be until the red light turns green.
The same sort of technology is already in use in Copenhagen and Amsterdam to help cyclists to avoid red lights, and has influenced the development of the 16-member, publicly funded £20 million UK Autodrive project which will be creating and trialling "vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure technologies that could make driving less stressful and time-consuming, and improve fuel efficiency."
This includes features such as the Emergency Electronic Brake Lights, part of the new Ford Mondeo Hybrid cars, which warns of cars ahead (up to 500m) braking hard; a warning system to advise if a vehicle is blocking the road ahead; ambulance, police car or fire engine approaching warning system; and intersections without traffic signs or traffic lights.
Should we be worried about all this technology or glad that autonomous driving is seemingly on its way?