On April 30, 2015 Amazon's company Blue Origin launched their first test flight. On June 19 2016, the "New Shepard" rocket from Blue Origin successfully launched three student payloads into suborbital space. The rocket and capsule landed a few minutes after separation. This was the 4th flight of the same hardware, proving its re-usability once again. The landing of the rocket back on earth was something to behold as shown in the video below (from 7: 25 to 7:58).
So if Amazon is able to launch and land a rocket successfully (as noted in the video above), how hard could it be to invent an autonomous vehicle, right? This week Amazon was granted a patent for 'lane assignments for autonomous vehicles.' They filed for their patents just months after launching their first test rocket.
Overview of Amazon's Autonomous Vehicle Patent
In Amazon's patent background they note that autonomous vehicles can facilitate efficient transportation networks. Reversible or reconfigurable lanes can also facilitate efficient traffic flow through roadways in a roadway network. Autonomous vehicles may not have information about reversible lanes when approaching a portion of a roadway that has reversible lanes. Additionally, an autonomous vehicle may be unaware of an optimal lane at which to enter a roadway that has reversible lanes.
Amazon's invention relates to on-road coordination of autonomous vehicles through a roadway or a portion of a roadway. An autonomous vehicle relates to a self-driving vehicle that is capable of operation without human input. An autonomous vehicle can be a passenger automobile, mass-transit vehicle, a commercial vehicle, street cleaning vehicle, law enforcement vehicle, emergency vehicle, or any other type of vehicle that can operate on a road. An autonomous vehicle can also include vehicles that are not traditionally thought of as transportation vehicles. For example, an autonomous vehicle can include a trash dumpster, a vacuum cleaner, a lawnmower, or any other type of vehicle or apparatus that can be equipped with a drive system and components that facilitate navigation through roadways.
According to some embodiments of the present disclosure, autonomous vehicles can be coordinated while on roadways by one or more roadway management systems associated with a roadway network. The roadway management systems can configure lanes of a roadway and assign usage of lanes within the roadway to autonomous vehicles based upon a capability of the autonomous vehicle, a speed of the autonomous vehicle, a destination of the autonomous vehicle, a priority assigned to the autonomous vehicle, a number of occupants, a direction of travel, or other factors. An autonomous vehicle can request usage of a portion of a roadway from a roadway management system that is tasked with managing the portion of the roadway by submitting a request to use the roadway to the roadway management system over a network. A roadway management system can assign usage of a roadway to an autonomous vehicle by assigning a particular lane in a portion of a roadway during a particular period of time and at a particular velocity or velocity range.
For example, assume that an autonomous vehicle is approaching a roadway or a particular portion of a roadway. The autonomous vehicle can identify a roadway management system that is assigned to the portion of the roadway and submit a request to use the roadway to the roadway management system. 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. The outcome directive can be a directive to maximize traffic flow through the roadway, maximize toll or parking revenue, maximize a speed of vehicles moving through the roadway, or a combination of various factors. Upon performing an analysis of the current state of the roadway and of the autonomous vehicle, the roadway management system can assign a particular lane or a portion of a lane during a particular period of time to the autonomous vehicle.
Amazon's patent FIG. 1A illustrates a networked environment for coordination of autonomous vehicles in a roadway. FIG. 2 presents more details behind the computing environment.
Amazon Technologies Inc., which operates as a subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc., was granted patent 9,547,986 on Tuesday which was originally filed in November 2015.
Between advanced rockets, delivery drones, Alexa and Echo along with Amazon Prime and content, Amazon is really taking some big risks and it's exciting to watch it all unfold. It's kind of what you expect from a technology company. They're challenging the status quo – something that Steve Jobs emphasized in Apple's Think Different ads. Amazon these days seems to be more willing to shake things up than Apple and it's great to see a technology company putting their pedal to the metal.
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