The pioneering technology is being tested ahead of trials of driverless vehicles, which would be linked to traffic lights so that fully-automated convoys could pass quickly through urban areas.

The new gadget, which attaches to the windscreen like a Sat Nav, detects traffic lights from around 100 metres away and requests priority so that they switch to green as soon as the car arrives. It also tells drivers of the speed they should be driving to make sure they always hit a green light in the event of traffic.

Currently the ground-breaking system is being trialled by the North East Ambulance patient transport service, who are hoping it will improve safety, create a smoother ride for patients and cut fuel bills.