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Audi system will read traffic lights

The Audi technology is aimed at not only improving the flow of city traffic but also saving fuel.

While many drivers might envy emergency services in some regions that have technology allowing them to change traffic lights, we can look forward to a system that will at least allow us to flow better with the lights.

Audi is trialling technology in three major pilot cities -- Berlin, Las Vegas and Verona -- that will let drivers anticipate changes in the lights, helping smooth traffic. And possibly letting impatient drivers further back in line pre-load that horn finger for the absolute nanosecond the light turns green.

The system monitors the signal from the central traffic computer, and integrating with vehicle positioning, sends information about the next set of lights to a display in the car's instrument panel.

The technology can give a countdown of the change from red to green, and also tell the engine's stop-start system to kick back into life five seconds before the change. It can also monitor the countdown back to red of a green light ahead, and let a driver know they're not going to make it across the intersection and should start slowing and braking.

The system is aimed at not only improving the flow of city traffic, but also saving fuel by eliminating the jerky brake-accelerate action of most drivers. Audi says the online traffic light recognition system is ready to go into production, but just needs official approval from government agencies.

Motor Authority says Audi is closely studying the prospect of a launch in the US, but has not announced timing for a roll-out there or in other markets.

This reporter is on Twitter: @KarlaPincott