WALNUT CREEK (KPIX 5) — Walnut Creek has unveiled a mobile app for drivers that is tied into the city’s traffic lights, providing drivers with audible cues on how long before the lights will change.

It’s hard to say if drivers in Walnut Creek are any smarter than anywhere else, but the traffic lights sure are. With the new smartphone app called “Enlighten,” your traffic signal can talk to you.

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“Enlighten is an app that tells you, as a driver, how many seconds you have before the light you are facing is turning green,” said Walnut Creek traffic engineer Rafat Raie.

The city’s traffic system already keeps track of what every signal in town is doing, and now that information can be streamed to the Internet and picked up by the Enlighten app.

Stop at a red light and you get a countdown with an audible signal shortly before it turns green. The city’s spokeswoman took it out for a test spin Thursday, and while its performance was hit or miss, keeping drivers alert seems like a worthy goal.

“Even the best of us sometimes daydream,” said Walnut Creek Public Information Officer Gayle Vassar. “I’m glad that it’s doing that instead of the guy behind me honking.”

The app can also tell drivers if they will make it to a green light at their current speed.

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“So it advises you to drive even safer,” said Raie.

But wouldn’t that cause some people to speed up? “It’s up to the user how they use anything,” he said.

How we’re currently using our cars is anything but safe. 33,000 Americans are killed each year on the roads. That’s why the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) is so eager for cars and traffic signals to begin talking to each other.

“So the cars in the future will refuse to crash because they’ll have better situational awareness,” said CCTA Executive Director Randy Iwasaki. “And this is one of the first steps that’s required in order to do that.”

They say it may take time, but eventually cars will become smart enough to prevent us from doing something really stupid.

For now, the enlighten app is available for iPhone and Android devices.

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