How BMW’s strategic routing and traffic light assistant make urban driving greener, and easier

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BMW Traffic Assistant

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For those of us who live and work in big cities, we all know that going about your business in densely populated areas can be tricky at times. How can I get to my destination on time? Will there be any free parking when I arrive? Where is the nearest charging point for my electric car?

Well, automaker BMW wants to ease some of those navigation worries in the future. And it is trying to do that through a series of applications and pilot projects, currently being introduced at the ITS World Congress in Vienna.

One of BMW’s initiatives is the creation of an iPhone application that’s being tested in Berlin. The luxury automaker says the service is going to provide individual, intermodal navigation. When you enter a destination, the mobility assistant will display various routes to allow you to reach this destination cost-effectively and quickly – whether you are travelling by car, using suburban public transport or combining the two modes of travel.

“The Mobility Assistant is an initial step towards the reality of actual intermodal traffic use. The objective is to ensure mobility over a range of different modes of transport. This is empowering the BMW Group to support mobility sustainably and tailored to individual needs,” according to Martin Hauschild, Head of Traffic Technology and Traffic Management at the BMW Group.

For example, all drivers with BMW cars equipped with ConnectedDrive encompassing RTTI (Real Time Traffic Information) are in a position to obtain the latest information about traffic conditions on the road. This new service is updated every three minutes and shows the current rates of traffic flow on the roads in five stages (gridlocked, congested, heavy traffic, slow-moving traffic, flowing normally).

The concept of intermodal routing is enhanced by the DriveNow package available in Munich, Düsseldorf, Berlin and San Francisco. This is a car-sharing service, using BMW and MINI automobiles that are independent of car-hire stations. The service is currently available in the four cities mentioned above. And BMW says it’s become extremely popular. If you need a car, the DriveNow App displays the nearest DriveNow vehicle in the vicinity. After you’ve finished your journey, you can simply park the vehicle at your destination and another driver will be able to use it from that location.

Also under the umbrella of BMW’s easy navigation program is the “traffic light assistant”. This research project involves traffic lights communicating with your vehicle. The lights transmit information about their switching sequences. A proposal for an optimum speed is then given to drivers enabling them to take advantage of a “green wave”. The system can also warn drivers if they are about to go through a red traffic light.

The traffic light assistant evaluates the data received in the car. If the traffic light at the intersection would already be red if the vehicle continued without changing speed, the person driving the car or motorcycle receives this information early enough to brake smoothly. The driver is therefore able to look into the future and adjust his driving style to the timing of the traffic lights.

The ultimate effect is that you can save fuel and protect the environment all at the same time.

The ITS World Congress is an international exhibition. It features devices, technologies and services associated with intelligent traffic systems. This year’s event in Vienna is hosting 300 exhibitors.

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