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Should you slow down with urgency or coast with caution to a red light?

A new feature set to be available on certain BMWs will tell drivers when traffic lights will change, and whether they’ll be seeing red or green.

The Bavarian automaker is rolling out a new feature that taps into the traffic signal network of certain cities in the U.S. and Australia in order to tell drivers what’s about happen on the lights ahead.

Powered by Connected Signals, a cloud-based system that receives red or green light data from various cities, drivers will receive a relevant chime or visual notification  based on the anticipated behaviour of upcoming lights. The app also uses data from the car, such as its location and speed.

If the light is about to turn red, they will see a red light notification on the dashboard display accompanied with a countdown. Likewise, the same will happen for a green light.

What if the driver is about to turn left or right rather than drive straight through? If the turning signal is activated, the driver won’t receive a traffic light notification.

In a statement released late last week, BMW USA said any BMW with the BMW Apps feature will be compatible with Connected Signals’ Enlighten App.

This screenshot of the BMW EnLighten app shows when a left turn signal will expire.

This screenshot of the BMW EnLighten app shows when a left turn signal will expire.

Drivers without a BMW can still get the app, but it won’t integrate with their dashboard displays.

It’s not known if the feature will be available to Canadian BMW customers at the same time as U.S. availability.

Why know the lights?

One obvious benefit is that drivers may be able to arrive at their destination more quickly if they’re able to “beat” the lights.

However, BMW highlights the potential for this feature to increase safety and save fuel because the predictions will help drivers avoid unnecessary acceleration or sudden breaking.

The actual savings might not be as remarkable, however.

Other features available from a handful of automakers are also designed to save fuel, without having to keep an eye on the traffic signals.

Many vehicles are available with start-stop systems which turn off the engine at stop lights, or in stop-and-go traffic. The fuel savings, however, may not be considerable. 

Some cars with large engines can also turn off cylinders when the extra oomph isn’t needed.