Amazon Patent Hints at Self-Driving Car Plans

Amazon is continuing research into self-driving cars, according to a patent filed in November 2015 and newly approved last Tuesday. The patent proposes a fix for issues involving reversible lanes, or lanes that shift direction according to patterns in traffic movement.

Amazon’s patent notes that information on traffic direction in a reversible lane may not be available upon a self-driving car’s approach, which could potentially result in head on collisions. To prevent this, the patent suggests a system which shares data provided by multiple self-driving cars to optimize vehicle routes and plan for possible dangers.    

Besides preventing disasters, the patent’s proposals could solve the efficiency problems reversible lanes currently present to manned drivers. By analyzing traffic in reversible lanes, Amazon’s self-driving cars could develop optimal routes ahead of time, avoiding not only accidents, but major traffic.

Self-driven transportation seems to be a major focus of Amazon’s logistical development. Although the patent reveals little about exactly how Amazon plans to approach the self-driving scene, it’s clear that the tech giant is at least intrigued by the prospect of autonomous delivery systems; Amazon acquired robotics developers Kiva Systems in 2012 and has since begun implementing robotics tech to automate and expand its shipping services.

Also intriguing is the fact that Amazon’s self guided drone program, Prime Air, is spearheading research into self-driving cars. Prime Air’s technical advisor, Jim Curlander, was credited as a co-author of Amazon’s reversible lane patent.