Amazon patent

On Tuesday (all US Patents are granted on Tuesdays), the US Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent entitled “Lane Assignments for Autonomous Vehicles” to Amazon Technologies, Inc. (U.S. Patent No. 9,547,986)

Abstract

“Disclosed are various embodiments for coordination of autonomous vehicles in a roadway. A roadway management system can generate lane configurations for a roadway or a portion of the roadway. 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.”

Claim 1:

“An autonomous vehicle, comprising:

a plurality of sensors configured to detect environmental information associated with the autonomous vehicle;

 

a communications interface configured to facilitate communication with a roadway management system;

 

a controller configured to control operation of the autonomous vehicle, the controller being configured to cause the autonomous vehicle to at least:

detect environmental information associated with the autonomous vehicle, the environmental information comprising a location of the autonomous vehicle, a velocity of the autonomous vehicle, an orientation of the autonomous vehicle, and a status of surroundings of the autonomous vehicle;

generate a request to use a portion of a roadway, the request identifying a destination associated with the autonomous vehicle and including the environmental information; transmit the request to the roadway management system using the communications interface, the roadway management system monitoring a status of a plurality of autonomous vehicles using the portion of the roadway and assigning usage of the portion of the roadway to the plurality of autonomous vehicles;

obtain a roadway assignment from the roadway management system, the roadway assignment comprising a lane identifier, a lane assignment, and a velocity assignment; and

generate a routing instruction for the autonomous vehicle to enter the portion of the roadway according to the roadway assignment.”

 

Commentary

In effect, the invention patented is sort of a “traffic cop” for autonomous vehicles.  It is predominantly in the form of a “method” patent – the method being the method for managing autonomous vehicles on a roadway.  Simply stated, according to the patent, the method/system involves an autonomous vehicle asking for, and being granted permission to enter a roadway.  Once permission to enter is granted, the “roadway management system” will provide a lane assignment and routing instructions to the vehicle.

Of note is that the Notice of Allowance of this patent was issued in only 10 months!  The latest statistics from the USPTO show an average patent pendency of over 2 years!  This was without Amazon’s apparently doing anything to expedite the application.

USPTO examination statistics

 

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Summary
Article Name
Amazon patent for autonomous vehicles
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