This patent is a major hint Amazon's entering the self-driving vehicle race

Lynsey Barber
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Amazon has patented tech for driverless vehicles to judge reversible roads (Source: Getty)

Amazon appears to be the latest tech giant jumping into the driverless car race, as a new patent for the technology made by the retailer-turned-transport innovator has been uncovered.

The designs, first reported by ReCode, are for a "roadway management system" which "can determine the direction of travel for lanes in a roadway and direct autonomous automobiles to enter the roadway in a particular lane".

Apparently the direction of travel may need to be addressed because reversible roads are common in the US - for example the Golden Gate Bridge has four lanes going into San Francisco during the morning rush hour and two heading out of the city, but this changes to three each way after the commute dies down.

Watch: Reversible roads in action

Now you've gotten your head around that, the patent itself is a major hint that automated transport will be part of its business - the many companies working on technology for driverless vehicles reads like a Who's Who of tech and car makers, while Amazon has already eyed up drone delivery as a logistics option.

And its interest will be in the logistics area, not the consumer-facing transport world, moving things rather than people.

Back in December, Amazon announced that it will have a fleet of "several thousands" of trucks (or the part that holds the goods, anyway), the first time it's invested in such an owned freight network, to get goods to fulfilment centres.

The patent, granted on Tuesday, said "Autonomous vehicles can facilitate efficient transport networks: Reversible or reconfigurable lanes can also facilitate efficient traffic flow through roadways in a roadway network."

Amazon is not the only one eyeing the potential of self-driving trucks. Uber, which already has autonomous cars being tested on the ground, snapped up self-driving truck startup Otto for millions last year.

Check out some of the images from the patent below, and the filing here.

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