Amazon Patents Autonomous Vehicle Lane-Changing Technology

January 18, 2017

Amazon was issued a patent yesterday for technology that will wirelessly help autonomous vehicles negotiate changing lanes and maneuver in traffic.

United States Patent number 9,547,986 B1 works to coordinate autonomous vehicles in a roadway with a management system that generates lane configurations, determines the direction of travel, and directs the autonomous vehicles when and where to enter the roadway in a particular lane. The technology is described as 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.

For example, assume an autonomous vehicle is approaching a particular portion of a road. The vehicle can identify and connect with the roadway management  system, which has analyzed that part of the roadway. The system will direct the vehicle to a specific lane at a particular time and at a particular speed. The autonomous vehicle could also request to use of a portion of road by submitting a request to the management system.

The Amazon patent says this will be helpful to maximize traffic flow, monitor tolls and parking revenue, control speeds and prevent crashes.

 “The roadway management system can identify a period of time and a particular lane of the roadway that is best suited to assign to the autonomous vehicle while taking into account an outcome directive,” Amazon’s inventors explain.

The patent does not contain any information on how the company intends to use the technology, but given Amazon already operates a dedicated fleet of semi-trucks, it would seem this roadway management technology fits into plans for autonomous delivery and distribution tasks.