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Amazon Patent Hints at Autonomous Roadway System

Amazon has been granted a patent proposing a centralized roadway management system that communicates with self-driving vehicles to help coordinate their movement at a large scale and deal with complex task of navigating reversible lanes.

As reported by media outlets, the patent, filed in November 2015 and granted this week, covers the problem of how to deal with reversible lanes, which change direction depending on the bulk of the traffic flow. This type of lane is typically used to manage commuter traffic into and out of cities.

Autonomous vehicles, the patent warns, “may not have information about reversible lanes when approaching a portion of a roadway that has reversible lane”, leading to a worst-case scenario of them driving headfirst into oncoming traffic.

More generally, the inability to plan for reversible lanes means cars and trucks can’t optimize their routes by getting into the correct lane well in advance, something that could otherwise prove to be one of the benefits of self-driving cars.

The patent proposes a centralised roadway management system that can communicate with multiple self-driving cars and trucks to exchange information and coordinate vehicle movement at a large scale.

Oddly, the division of Amazon leading its research into the area is its autonomous drone project, Prime Air.

Amazon has slowly been taking more direct control of its transportation network over recent years, including the creation of Amazon Logistics. It’s also been reported the company is developing mobile technology so it can schedule and track truck shipments of its products with a few taps or clicks.

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