A Highway Network Controlling Self-Driving Cars and Trucks Patented by Amazon

Patent for a network that manages a very specific aspect of the self-driving experience: How autonomous cars navigate reversible lanes, has been awarded to international online retailer Amazon.

Reversible lanes are a potential disaster zone for self-driving cars that haven’t yet been programmed to understand those signals and hence reversible lanes indicate a change in direction of traffic with an overhead signal.

In order to allow and adjust self-driving vehicles to the change in traffic flow, the network that has been patented communicates with and shares information with the self driving vehicles. This aspect has been outlined in the patent documents awarded to Amazon. For such self driving vehicles that are traveling across state lines onto new roads with unfamiliar traffic laws, this sharing of information and communication via the proposed network is particularly important.

Given Amazon’s recent push into creating its own logistics network and controlling more of the delivery process, it’s not surprising that Amazon has thought about how to ease that process.

Thousands of its own truck trailers, used to deliver goods from one Amazon warehouse to another, were bought up by the company in December. And particularly since autonomous delivery trucks would eliminate the cost of hiring drivers, it’s likely Amazon is thinking about its own self-driving ambitions.

Rumors are making the grape vine about the use of Amazon’s drone division, Prime Air, by the company itself which is predicted to be working on creating self-driving delivery vehicles out of that division. Jim Curlander, is the technical adviser at Prime Air, and is one of the listed inventors of the network.

Depending on where the vehicle is going and what would best alleviate traffic, the roadway management system will help “assign” lanes to autonomous vehicles, the patent also indicates.

In order to allow self driving vehicles to communicate traffic patterns, safety stats and other information, the automakers and tech companies are creating cloud platforms and this new network system is very similar to it.

However the primary and the most major difference between the two is the instead of individual automakers, Amazon’s proposed network would be owned and operated by Amazon. It also appears to be designed so any carmaker’s vehicles can take advantage of the technology.

The patent which reads ‘A roadway management system can generate lane configurations for a roadway or a portion of the roadway’, was awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Virginia.

By ‘submitting a request to use the roadway to the roadway management system over a network’, an autonomous vehicle could request use of a particular portion of road, the patent explains. And during a particular period of time and a particular velocity or velocity range, the management system could then allocate the vehicle to a particular lane.

The other advantages that Amazon can derive from the patent include speeding up of journeys generation of some extra money and ease congestion

(Adapted from CNBC & Recode)


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