Amazon Files Patent For Automated Delivery On Managed Roadways

Amazon is taking autonomous vehicle technology very seriously, being granted a patent for communications between self-driving vehicles and roadway management systems.

U.S. Patent 9,547,986 would share trip data from self-driving vehicles on roads that have reversible lanes; these are highway lanes in which vehicles may travel in either direction. Reversible lanes use overhead signals to direct drivers and to improve traffic during heavy congestion.

The patented system appears to be directed to vehicles typically driving down highways, but it can apply to “any type of vehicle, including but not limited to cars, trucks, vans, buses, street cars, helicopters, trains, subways, aircrafts, boats, etc., regardless of how powered or driven.”

Amazon is staying quiet on its intention in receiving the patent. The patent filing doesn’t include information on how Amazon will use this technology; and the company didn’t respond to calls and emails from Forbes after the patent was granted Jan. 17.

The company has created its own place in delivery services in recent years, counting less on UPS and FedEx. The company operates a fleet of semi-trucks moving goods to its distribution centers, and panel delivery trucks. More recently, the company has entered the on-demand, last-mile delivery space through Amazon Prime Now package and food delivery and Amazon Fresh grocery delivery units.

The online shopping giant’s interests in automated transportation has become more obvious lately. The company been testing drone carriers over the past year. Amazon has also been rumored to make an investment in “HERE,” a high-definition mapping navigation service.

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Amazon may be preparing to try out the new patented technology in its hometown of Seattle. That traffic-congested metro area has been using reversible highway lanes to ease rush-hour congestion.

Autonomous vehicles using Amazon’s new system can be guided to the correct lane controlled by the local roadway management system in Seattle and in other cities. The Amazon system is also capable of alerting the traffic management system of lane changes the autonomous vehicle plans to make.

Automation is expected to play an important role in the future of highway cargo transport and package delivery. That was demonstrated last year by ride-hailing giant Uber’s decision to invest an estimated $680 million in self-driving truck startup Otto.

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