rainy streets

Are red lights the bane of your existence? Drivers are learning how to go with the flow, and technology is making it possible.

Sami Sarkis/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

You might not be down with the lingo, but if you regularly drive through urban areas, you've probably ridden the "green wave" at one point or another.

The drive starts out like any other, just a quick trip across town to pick up some dry cleaning. You drift effortlessly through the first green light and coast through the next intersection as well. To your growing amazement, you easily make the third traffic light, too. Will this streak of traffic luck hold out? Will you arrive at your destination without stopping for a single light?

For many, the green wave may seem something of a divine gift from the otherwise unsympathetic traffic gods. For hypermilers, however, there's nothing supernatural about hitting all the lights just right. Like a gambler who works the mathematical odds instead of relying on lucky charms, these savvy individuals drive to beat the system. Hypermiling simply involves driving your vehicle in a manner that maximizes fuel efficiency and minimizes exhaust emissions -- and a key way to achieve both is to cut out unnecessary stops and rapid accelerations.

­Frugal hypermilers live for increasing their vehicle's gas mileage, but even the most experienced green wave rider has his or her limits. You may have a great feel for the road, but you can't talk to the traffic lights. Or can you? In the German city of Ingolstadt, something peculiar is afoot. Certain luxury vehicles have been observed gliding effortlessly through intersections. Even when they're forced to stop, they never seem to have to wait long. Who are these mysterious drivers, and what allows their cars to cut though the municipal traffic system?

It's no coincidence that the vehicles are all Audis, and that the automotive manufacturer is headquartered in Ingolstadt. The Bavarian city is currently playing host to an experiment in the future of driving called Travolution. With Audi's Travolution system, intelligent traffic lights talk to each other and cars talk to traffic lights, all to the benefit of human drivers.