Online retail giant Amazon recently filed two patent applications that indicate the company’s intention to introduce aspects of its operations into the world of intelligent transportation systems and automated vehicle development.
U.S. Patent Application No. 20150269521, titled Route Scheduling of Multi-Class Transport Vehicles, describes a computer-implemented method that involves determining a first transport route including pick-up location and transfer of a perishable item for a first transport vehicle governed by a set of first transport rules identifying a geographical region accessible by the vehicle; determining a second transport route for a second transport vehicle; receiving the updated item exchange location based on a second transportation factor and delivery location; updating both transport routes to include the updated item exchange location; and providing instructions for the transfer of the perishable item at the exchange location. The system is designed to enable the transport of perishable items to locations off of dirt roads or other pathways where specialized vehicles are required.
U.S. Patent Application No. 20150277440, titled Sense and Avoid for Automated Mobile Vehicles, describes a vehicular body and a plurality of motors coupled to the body, and a propellor to rotate a propellor, each motor having an exterior component, an interior component and a laser-based rangefinder within the interior component to emit a laser signal and receive the reflection to determine a distance to the object. This system, which could be incorporated onto air-, water- or ground-based vehicles, is meant to keep unmanned vehicles from colliding with each other, a technology that has been, of late, desirable by drone manufacturers and operators in response to concerns levied by federal regulators.
At present, the breadth of application of the patent-pending technologies has not been determined. As to whether the technologies described in the patent applications would be applicable to services solely within Amazon's operations, or servicable in a broader sense, remains speculative.