A clever breakthrough of Seat: a car that communicates with traffic lights…

We all know the frustration: however slow or fast you accelerate from a traffic light, the next one will always be red, even if, as it happens so often, this next light is only a few hundred metres away. We all know too well how much energy is wasted with this. Seat now started a project together with the Spanish Traffic Authority, the Barcelona City Council and ETRA.

It successfully connects vehicles with traffic lights and the traffic control centre so drivers can anticipate their upcoming status. This project also enables information on motorway incidents to get sent directly to vehicles without the need for information panels, bringing cars and infrastructure together via the cloud using cellular technology with latency times of 300 milliseconds.

Oh so clever!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Vehicles connected with traffic lights and road infrastructure.

The vehicle used in this pilot project is equipped with the necessary technology to connect with its surroundings and receive information uploaded by the Traffic Authority to the cloud, which in turn enables the driver to anticipate what lies ahead in real time.

“In this project, SEAT’s new connected cars receive real-time traffic information from the Traffic Authority’s central cloud, including information displayed on motorway panels or the traffic light status in cities”, explains Jordi Caus, the Head of Urban Mobility Concepts at SEAT.

How does it work?

When a vehicle is approaching a traffic light, an alert appears on the screen showing whether it will be red, green or yellow when it arrives, as the system performs a calculation based on how far away the car is and the speed it is travelling at. One important note for safety is that it only works as long as the vehicle is not exceeding the speed limit. “The system does not work at above maximum speeds, which is very important for road safety. It wants to be an auxiliary tool that enables motorists to drive more smoothly”, assures Manuel Valdés, the Head of Mobility and Infrastructures at the Barcelona City Council.

Information panels in your car, too.

Today there are 2,000 information panels in Barcelona that provide drivers with traffic and weather conditions or information about road work or accidents. With this system, all this information is displayed directly on the screens of connected vehicles at any point of the road network. According to Jorge, “we can accomplish the same as what we used to do with variable message signs on the motorway, but now directly to the car from any point on the road.”

A future of collaborative information…

In addition, connected cars and users themselves will also be information suppliers. “Anyone with information about what happens on the road can share it,  so other users will know in advance of any incident when they reach the same point”, explains Jorge.

“With this project we’re taking a first step to connect cars with overall traffic infrastructure. We’ve begun with information functions, but with the future autonomous vehicles in mind we’ll be able to act directly on the car in situations of risk”, concludes Jordi Caus.

A harbinger of good things to come, we would say!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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