Dezeen Magazine

News: Amazon patents driverless highway system

Amazon patents highway network to stop self-driving cars crashing

Amazon has been awarded a patent for a technology that would enable driverless cars and trucks to navigate reversible lanes.

The patent, which was originally filed in November 2015 and granted yesterday, reveals that the company is working on not only driverless cars but the infrastructure that would support them.

It deals with the problem of how autonomous vehicles would navigate reversible lanes, which are typically used in US cities to ease congestion through changing the direction of traffic flow.

When navigating a reversible lane, drivers are alerted to the change of direction through overhead signals and lights notifying which lanes are open or closed to driving or turning.

"Autonomous vehicles may not have information about reversible lanes when approaching a portion of roadway that has reversible lanes," states the document.

"Additionally, an autonomous vehicle may be unaware of an optimal lane at which to enter a roadway that has reversible lanes."

The patent describes a network that would – similarly to cloud-based platforms – communicate with self-driving vehicles so that they can react to the change in traffic flow.

The proposed roadway management system would also assign lanes to each vehicle, depending on where it is going and what would best help traffic.

The speed capabilities of the vehicle, as well as its number of occupants, are further factors that could be taken into account.

An autonomous vehicle could also request to use of a portion of road by submitting a request to the management system.

While Amazon hasn't made an official announcement that it is to release its own autonomous vehicle, the patent hints at its future plans for joining the race towards driverless transport.

It comes after the company filed a patent for huge flying warehouses that could house its fleet of delivery drones.

Stationed above cities, these warehouses could be used to store and rapidly deliver items at times of high demand.