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Amazon Patents Highway Network to Help Self-Driving Cars Navigate Reversible Lanes

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【Summary】In 2015, Amazon filed a patent that covered a method for autonomous vehicles to tackle reversible lanes. The electronic commerce company was recently awarded the patent and hopes to reduce traffic and avoid accidents on highways.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jan 27, 2017 1:05 PM PT
Amazon Patents Highway Network to Help Self-Driving Cars Navigate Reversible Lanes

Automakers and technology companies aren't the only ones looking to enter the self-driving scene. In November 2015, Amazon, the electronic commerce company, filed a patent that described a way for self-driving vehicles to navigate reversible lanes – roads that change direction based on traffic flow. Amazon was just awarded the patent earlier this month. 

What Does The Patent Propose?

The patent covers how autonomous cars will be able to deal with reversible lanes, which are quite popular in the United States. Self-driving cars, the patent states, "may not have information about reversible lanes when approaching a portion of a roadway that has reversible lane." This could potentially lead to an autonomous vehicle driving straight into oncoming traffic. 

James Curlander, the individual in charge of Amazon's autonomous drone program, and a team of inventors filed the patent. The team came up with a network that can communicate with autonomous cars, reports Recode. The network allows self-driving vehicles to adjust to the flow of traffic. This, as Recode points out, will be helpful for autonomous cars to travel across state lines where traffic laws can differ drastically. 

The network, which would work in a similar fashion to cloud-based hardware, would also assign lanes to each self-driving vehicle depending on where it is traveling and traffic flow. The number of occupants the vehicle can carry and how fast it can travel are also factors the network will consider. 

While it sounds like communication can only travel from the network to vehicles, autonomous cars will also be able to request the network for a specific portion of the road. 

Amazon's patent, then, would drastically decrease the potential for an accident to occur on roads that switch the direction of travel. It would also help traffic flow improve, reducing the amount of congestion on major roads. But, as The Guardian points out, Amazon's patent could also help coordinate automobile movement. 

Amazon's Definitely Expanding Its Automotive Presence

Other than revealing its goal to have a roadway management system, the patent doesn't provide any more information about Amazon's plan to enter the world of self-driving cars. Amazon is rumored to be working on new pieces of technology that can replace human drivers on the road. 

More recently, Amazon has taken more control of its delivery network. The company, back in 2012, created Amazon Logistics to complete its own deliveries in Britain. The service has expanded since then to include a convoy of 40 planes, with goals for a cargo shipping network. 

As Inverse claims, Amazon could be working on a similar type of network, or software program, to optimize flight paths for its drone, which are part of the company's Prime Air service. As of right now, the only thing Amazon dabbles with that includes cars is selling them online, which isn't available in the US, and allowing BMW owners to access their vehicles through Amazon Echo.

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