How the auto industry is self-driving innovation

When it comes to autonomous vehicle tech, Silicon Valley falls behind auto industry innovators like Toyota and Bosch
The future of the auto industry

Driverless car technology has officially hit the tipping point. Driver assistance technologies are practically standard issue in new car models and dedicated auto-related exhibit space at the Consumer Electronics Show this year has increased 25 percent from 2015, setting a new record.

A more tangible assessment of innovative growth is evident when consulting recent patent data. According to our new report, 2016 State of Self-Driving Automotive Innovation, there were more than 22,000 new inventions patented related to driverless cars in the past five years alone. To generate the report, our analysts tabulated Derwent World Patents Index (DWPI) data from January 1, 2010 through October 31, 2015. 

“Our analysis of the patent activity shows some predictable leaders and some surprises. It will be compelling and exciting to watch how their inventions unfold in the year ahead,” said Vin Caraher, president Thomson Reuters IP & Science.

Of the three most prolific categories, autonomous driving is generating the most innovation activity, while projections through year end show driver assistance potentially plateauing and telematics on the rise.

The auto industry – not Silicon Valley – is driving innovation
Industry leaders such as Toyota, Bosch, Denso, Hyundai, GM and Nissan are leading the self-driving pack. Toyota alone has patented over 2,000 new driverless tech inventions in the last five years, double the number two player Bosch.

Asia is the clear global leader as the home of 11 of the world’s top 20 self-driving automotive vehicle innovators. 

Though auto industry forerunners dominate innovation, a number of more specialized technology and research institutions have amassed a noteworthy collection of self-driving vehicle-related patents. Among them, LG, Samsung, Google, Boeing, IBM, Amazon, Carnegie Mellon and MIT have all contributed significant new intellectual property in the category over the last five years.


A space ripe for partnership
Recent rumors of a partnership between Google and Ford foreshadow trends to come in 2016 for automotive innovation. While tech and media companies have the advantage for R&D and existing computing technologies, auto manufacturers possess the industry expertise and facilities necessary to move innovation into viable commercial realities. Working relationships between these two spheres creates a sweet spot for collaborative innovation and “tech repurposing” across industries.

Google and Ford may be the first to fully take advantage of “tech repurposing” and collaborative innovation with the development of the Google driverless car, but our analysts anticipate that Apple and Tesla not be far behind. Though a bit of an outlier with just one automotive invention overall, Apple Inc. is only just getting started with its foray into in autonomous vehicles.

“If we’ve learned anything in the 21st century, it’s that technology seems to be boundless, as long as you have the right collaborators at the helm,” said Caraher.

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