Deciding to expand its portfolio once again, Amazon has now claimed a patent for a smart highway system. This latest patent snapped up by Amazon involves a highway network designed to assist self-driving cars, with what may be some pretty radical ideas included in the paperwork – such as reversible lanes. It isn't surprising to see Amazon making to put its collective hands and considerable funding into nearly every field of modern technology. The shipping and technology company even managed to grab a patent for floating factories filled with delivery drones. However, Patent Number US 9,547,986 B1 applies specifically to highways and – as written on the 20-page document itself – lane assignments for autonomous vehicles.
The system – if it were ever built- would be able to actively change the direction of independent lanes to essentially manage traffic more efficiently. Essentially, the network itself would likely consist of three separate parts according to the filing. First, a computing environment would store and crunch data collected from smart cars. Smart cars would make up the second part of the network – sending, receiving, and computing their own data. Finally, a network of towers would be in place to move data between the other two parts. The components would allow the system to compute the best lane management possible, on the fly. If needed it would send out signals, moving autonomous vehicles to different lanes and adjust which lanes flow in what direction – ultimately working to improve travel times and reduce accidents.
While it may seem farfetched, it is pretty easy to see how such a system could really improve traffic flow under any number of circumstances. In fact, it may be more than convenient. Shipping by truck is still a very big part of Amazon's core business. Improvements in fuel efficiency and delivery scheduling could be made using a system like the one outlined in the patent. The savings created by those improvements – leaving aside benefits to customers – would be huge. However, there are still some pretty well-founded fears about self-driving cars and trucks and it is important to remember that this is just a patent. There is no guarantee that this system or anything like it will ever be built.