A new patent granted to Amazon could help drive forward the adoption of autonomous vehicles (AVs) by making it easier for them to understand the challenges posed by reversible lanes.
These road features allow traffic to move in either direction at certain times in order to ease traffic flow. However, they may pose particular problems to driverless cars that have not been programmed to understand the overhead signals that provide information about the direction of travel.
According to the technology giant’s patent, AVs may not have adequate information about reversible lanes when approaching a section of highway that employs such congestion-calming measures.
It also noted that these cars “may be unaware of an optimal lane at which to enter a roadway that has reversible lanes”.
Therefore, the company proposed a solution that would see self-driving vehicles coordinated through a connected roadway management system. This would be able to direct AVs to specific lanes on the road, taking into account factors such as speed, destination, number of occupants, and direction of travel.
Driverless vehicles would request to use a portion of a roadway, with the system then assigning lanes according to what it deems the best solution for maintaining traffic flow and safety.
“A request to use a portion of a roadway from a vehicle can include environmental data about the surroundings of a vehicle and about the vehicle itself,” the patent explained. This could include data on the size and weight of the vehicle, its passengers or cargo, or what other traffic is in close proximity.
Recode, which reported on the patent’s acceptance, observed Amazon is rumoured to be one of the latest firms to develop an interest in developing AV technology. The publication noted that the company may be particularly interested in deployed driverless trucks in order to transport goods between its warehouses