Steep 330% rise of self-driving car patents in Europe
The number of patents filed in Europe for self-driving vehicle (SDV) technology has grown twenty times faster than other technology sectors, a rise with 330% between 2011 and 2017. Both Europe, with Germany in particular, and the US lead the wave shoulder to shoulder, Europe’s Patent Office (EPO) says in its report.
18.000 patents in 10 years
In the last ten years almost 18.000 patents related to SDV technology were filed with the EPO in Munich (Germany) and almost 4.000 of them last year alone.
The domains of ‘perception, analysis & decision’, enabling a vehicle to make autonomous decisions and ‘communication’, the field of interacting with other vehicles and the infrastructure made out the lion’s share of patents. In these domains, growth rates were 674% and 470% respectively between 2011 and 2017.
Strong in vehicle handling
It’s obvious the self-driving car brings together two mighty technology industries with automotive on one side and ICT/Telecom tech industries on the other side.
The classic automotive industry is clearly ahead in the automated parts of the SDV, so-called ‘vehicle handling’ (63,4%), ‘perception and decision making’ (44,4%) and ‘smart logistics’ (48,7%), like traffic management, automated parking or interaction with the electricity grid, to mention some examples.
Even in ‘computing’, the underlying hardware and processes the classic automotive sector is quite ‘agile’ with 33,6%, while the big ICT tech guys ‘only’ score 30,4%. They excel especially in ‘communication’ (42,6%) together with the telecom sector (25,1%), with the automotive sector only good for 18,5%.
When talking about ‘automotive’ inventions, German supplier Bosch is leading with 343 patents before Toyota (338), the other big German supplier Continental (259) and Volvo AB (209) and Audi (142) as the numbers four and five.
Apart from the big five only Honda (120), digital map maker HERE Global (118) owned by Daimler, Audi and BMW, French supplier Valeo (113) and Nissan (107) figure in the top 25 of companies that together are accounting for 40% of all patents filed with EPO in the envisioned period.
Samsung number one
In the ICT camp the undisputed number one is South Korean Samsung with 624 patents filed in the domain of ‘ICT for automotive’, followed closely by US chip maker Intel (590) and American automotive chip maker Qualcomm (361) on a third place. LG, being one of the world’s largest battery suppliers, is another big South Korean name with 348 patents.
Remarkable: no sign at all of the world’s most valuable ICT company, Apple, in the leading pack of 25, although Apple is known to be working in the field of software for autonomous cars too. Its all time competitor in the computer software business, Microsoft, shows up at the 9th place of the top 25 with 259 patents.
Asia following at a distance
When you look at the most innovative countries, the EU with 37,2% of the patents is staying ahead of the US (33,7%), which may look quite logical at first sight because these are figures of the European Patent Office, but as patents in the field of the self-driving car are mostly filed for worldwide protection, it might be significant, though.
Asia, on the forefront with electric cars with China being the world’s biggest car market today, is represented by Japan (13,3%), South Korea (7,3%) and China with only 3,2% of all patents.
Germany leads the way
Within Europe, it’s no surprise Germany has the lion’s share with 2.150 patents (14,4%), with France following on a distance (4,8%) with its 715 patents, together with Sweden (703 or 4,7%) and the UK (439 or 2,9%).
The Netherlands come in at a deservingly fifth place with 419 patents (2,8% of the total), something that might be not so surprising with big names in the field of high-resolution digital maps, a must for self-driving cars, like HERE and TomTom, both headquartered in Holland. Belgium (90 patents) ranks on the tenth place right behind Italy (93).