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Patent applications in self-driving vehicles (SDV)

11. December 2018

By José Santacroce, Head of Patent Department

Patent applications in SDV

On November 6th 2018, the European Patent Office (EPO) in cooperation with the European Council for Automotive Research and Development (EUCAR) released the study “Patents and self-driving vehicles”. The key findings of said study are summarized below:

The patent applications in SDV have been divided into two main technology sectors:

  1. Automated vehicle platform, which encompasses technologies that are embodied in the vehicle itself. It includes inventions that enable vehicles to make autonomous decisions (Perception, analysis and decisions), inventions in the automated parts of the vehicle (Vehicle handling), and inventions in the underlying hardware and software (Computing).

  2. Smart environment, which comprises technologies that enable SDVs to interact with each other and with their surroundings. It includes inventions in vehicle connectivity and related communication infrastructure (Communication) and inventions in traffic management, vehicle identification, automated parking and interfaces between vehicles and the electricity grid (Smart logistics).

The EPO´s study mentions that over the past decade, the EPO has received around 18,000 patent applications in SDV technologies, almost 4.000 of them in 2017 alone.

Annual patent applications in SDVs increased by 330% compared with 2011, a growth rate that is more than 20 times faster than that for patent applications in general at the EPO for the same period.

Perception, analysis and decision is the largest SDV technology field, while Communication and Computing technologies have grown the fastest since 2011.

Top 20 patent applicants

Patent applications in SDV involve both automotive and Communication & Computing (ICT) industries, being the top 20 applicants:  Samsung, Intel, Qualcomm, LG, Bosch, Toyota, Nokia, Ericsson, Microsoft, Continental, Sony, Boeing, Volvo, Google, Panasonic, Huawei, Audi, Hitachi, Siemens and Honda.

Europe (EPC) and the USA have a strong lead in SDV innovation, with about 1.400 patent applications each in 2017.

European applicants stand out in the field of Vehicle handling, Smart logistics and Perception, analysis and decision. US applicants dominate in ICT.

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