Skip to main content

Amazon’s latest patent reveals its own take on autonomous car technology

germany self driving car tests mercedes autonomous
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Apparently keen to have a finger in just about every pie that ever came out of the oven, Amazon looks to be planning a move into autonomous car technology. At least, that’s what a newly revealed patent suggests.

Filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in November 2015 and granted this week, the document describes a system that helps self-driving cars safely deal with reversible lanes that change direction depending on the volume of traffic at any given time. Such lanes are often used in busy cities during rush hours when large amounts of traffic head inward during the morning and outward later in the afternoon.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Amazon’s proposed technology describes self-driving vehicles communicating with computerized road management systems, allowing for the safe and efficient use of reversible lanes by autonomous cars and trucks, as well as other vehicles.

According to the filing, cars with the necessary kit would send traffic data to a nearby road management system that’s constantly analyzing the incoming information. This would allow the system to work out the ideal lane usage at any given time while sending updates on such lane use back to the autonomous vehicles, enabling them to drive safely according to the conditions. It’s essentially a form of vehicle-t0-infrastructure (V2I) communication, a technology that’s gaining increasing attention in the automotive industry.

With Amazon’s plan for a comprehensive drone delivery network still a ways off, the company’s apparent interest in making road systems as efficient as possible makes perfect sense. And just like Google, Otto, and others, it could even be considering the use of self-driving trucks for its already vast and highly complex delivery network.

But it’s worth noting that, as with all patents, there’s no guarantee Amazon’s design will ever come to fruition. However, it does reveal that the Seattle-based company is exploring how it might get involved in autonomous vehicle technology, so we shouldn’t be too surprised if we see similar ideas – or perhaps more ambitious plans – presented by the company in the coming months and years.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Ford and VW close down Argo AI autonomous car unit
An Argo AI autonomous car on the road.

Autonomous-car specialist Argo AI is closing down after Ford and Volkswagen, Argo's main backers, ended support for the Pittsburgh-based company.

First reported by TechCrunch and later confirmed by the two auto giants, some of the 2,000 workers at Argo will transfer to Ford and Volkswagen, while others without an offer will receive a severance package. Argo’s technology is also set to end up in the possession of the two companies, though at this stage it’s not clear how it might be shared.

Read more
Ex-Apple employee pleads guilty to nabbing Apple Car secrets
The Apple logo is displayed at the Apple Store June 17, 2015 on Fifth Avenue in New York City

A former Apple employee on Monday pled guilty to the theft of trade secrets from the tech firm.

The material stolen by Xiaolang Zhang was linked to Apple’s work on its first-ever automobile, a project that’s been in and out of the headlines for years though never officially confirmed by the company.

Read more
A weird thing just happened with a fleet of autonomous cars
A passenger getting into a Cruise robotaxi.

In what must be one of the weirder stories linked to the development of autonomous vehicles, a fleet of Cruise self-driving cars gathered together at an intersection in San Francisco earlier this week, parked up, and blocked traffic for several hours. And to be clear: No, they weren't supposed to do that.

Some observers may have thought they were witnessing the start of the robot uprising, but the real reason for the mishap was more prosaic: An issue with the platform's software.

Read more