Amazon has a clever idea that would give it a powerful seat in the self driving car business

Amazon CEO Jeff BezosBrent LewisAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Amazon has filed a new patent designed to help autonomous vehicles identify the driving lanes best-suited for their individual needs.

The patent, approved on Tuesday, shows a “roadway management system” that is capable of telling self-driving cars which lanes to use on the roadway, based on things like the speed and destination of the vehicle, or time of the day and traffic flow.

It also notes that the new system could help self-driving cars spot reversible lanes, which let cars travel in either direction depending on the displayed overhead signal.

“The roadway management system can determine the direction of travel for lanes in a roadway and direct autonomous automobiles to enter the roadway in a particular lane,” the filing says. “Additionally, an autonomous vehicle may be unaware of an optimal lane at which to enter a roadway that has reversible lanes.”

To make this happen, Amazon plans to create a new computing environment that connects the roadway management system with a bunch of transportation data, and make it communicate with the self-driving vehicles through an existing network.

Here’s a drawing of how the system would work, per the filing:

The new patent hints at Amazon’s ambition to potentially get into the self-driving sector, which would help the company save a ton of money in shipping costs. Amazon has been making some moves in the trucking logistics space, buying up its own fleet of trucks while secretly building an app that would make the shipping process much more efficient.

Here’s a more detailed description of how Amazon envisions the system working in real-life:

“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 maximise traffic flow through the roadway, maximise toll or parking revenue, maximise 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.”

And here’s a more technical description of the system, per the filing:

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