A new mobile app developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology uses dashboard-mounted smartphones to help drivers avoid red lights and improve the flow of traffic. The app, called SignalGuru, predicts when a traffic signal is set to change and tells the driver what speed to drive in order to progress through the light without stopping.

"The stop-and-go pattern that traffic signals create increases fuel consumption significantly," said Emmanouil Koukoumidis, the scientist who led development of the app, reported Reuters. "We wondered how we could help drivers cruise through signal light intersections without stopping, and how much we could save on gas and improve the flow of vehicles.”

Crowdsourcing traffic signal data is necessary, he said, because traffic authorities aren't always willing to hand the information over and, in many cases, the information is spread across multiple agencies and not easily accessible. The approach used to develop this app could also be used for other applications, Koukoumidis said, such as monitoring available parking spaces or real-time gas prices.

The researchers plan to sell the app eventually, but first need to create new features to make it safe, like thresholds on deceleration.