What colour will the next traffic light be — red, yellow or green?

The answer to this question can now be supplied by the latest technology before you get there.

Spanish car maker SEAT, in conjunction with the Spanish Traffic Authority, Barcelona City Council and Electronic Trafic (ETRA) has successfully connected vehicles with traffic lights and the traffic control centre — so drivers can be informed in advance of their status.

This project also enables information on motorway incidents to be sent directly to vehicles, bringing cars and infrastructure together via the Cloud — based on cellular technology with latency times of 300 milliseconds.

“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.

When a vehicle is approaching a traffic light, an alert appears on the car screen showing whether it will be red, green or yellow when it arrives — as the system performs a calculation based on distance and speed.

Ah, yes, I hear you say, but this could encourage drivers to speed up to beat an approaching red light.

But there’s a caveat, because the system will only broadcast the information provided the vehicle is not exceeding the speed limit.

“The system does not work at higher speeds, which is very important for road safety,” says Manuel Valdés, the Head of Mobility and Infrastructures at the Barcelona City Council.

“It aims to be an auxiliary tool that enables motorists to drive more smoothly.”

In Barcelona there are 2000 information panels that provide drivers with traffic and weather conditions or information about road work or accidents.

With the new system, all of this information can be displayed directly on the screens of connected vehicles at any point in the road network.

Information normally shown on overhead message boards is fed directly to cars, providing advance warning of situations.

The idea is the more information a driver has, the less risk there is to the car.

“We are aiming for a significant reduction in the number of accidents, less vehicle traffic and therefore, a positive effect on the environment,” says Jorge Ordás, deputy director of Mobility and Technology at the Spanish Traffic Authority.

In addition, connected cars and road 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,” says Ordás.

“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 vehicle in mind we’ll be able to act directly on the car in situations of risk.”

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Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.