”Baby you can drive my car” period is over. Welcome the Self-driving vehicles.

With the first self-driving vehicles (SDVs) likely to be commercially available by 2025, it seems that the transport revolution is nearly upon us.  Among the major players in this new emerging market, we have the established automotive firms investing in digital technologies, with an upcoming group of patent holders  specializing in  wireless communications and big data that are of crucial relevance to SDVs.

The EPO published, in November 2018 a report entitled “Patents and self-driving vehicles” (find it here), which gives a very interesting overview of the patent landscape in this important emerging field. The patents and patent applications related to SDVs are divided into two main categories,  the automated vehicle sector and the smart environment sector. The former covers technologies that are embodied in the vehicle itself (such as enabling vehicles to make autonomous decisions), while the latter concerns technologies that allow SDVs to communicate with each other as well as with their surroundings.

The patent activity in these two sectors has increased by more than 330% since 2011. Among the sources of patent applicants, Europe and the USA are leaders in SDV innovation, while among European applicants, Germany is the most active country, with 2151 applications during the years 2011 to 2017 while Sweden and France follow with approximately 700 applications each. Japan, which  was close behind the two leading jurisdictions some ten years ago, has not been able to maintain its pace  of growth since then. In fact, both the Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China, with their first patent contributions only as late as in 2013, are now catching up with Japan.
Patent strategies reveal that applicants opt for an international coverage, choosing either regional or international patent offices, and pursue protection in several jurisdictions. 

The increased patent activity in SDV the field is  reflected in the considerable investments made in  this sectors. Only in the US, for example, more than 80 billion dollars was invested in the development of SDVs between 2014 and 2017.  What is especially interesting is that traditional automotive companies have to compete with new market entrants  that have no history in the automotive industry, but have a leading position in AI and communication.

In this connection, among the top patent applicants in the SDV field are Samsung as number one, followed by Intel, Qualcomm and LG, with Robert Bosch and Toyota fifth and sixth, respectively. Among the top 25 patent applicants, half operate in information and communication (ICT), while the other half act in transport and related industries. 
This IPkat really likes an idea of self-driving cars

The report uses patent ownership rates in order to draw conclusions regarding  the maturity of the market. In general, a higher level of market concentration usually points to  a more mature market, while lower levels are signs of less consolidated markets. The SDV market seems to belong to the latter category, with the top  10 applicants constituting 25% of the total  patent applications, while 60% are held by hundreds of smaller technology players.

The report  reveals an upcoming revolution in the transport industry, not only with regards to technological solutions but also market structures. On the one hand, we see the need for traditional automotive players to collaborate with the new market entrants, being leaders in AI and communications, while at the same time  important, indeed, revolutionary technology,  is in fact  owned by small players rather than the industry’s traditional leaders.
”Baby you can drive my car” period is over. Welcome the Self-driving vehicles. ”Baby you can drive my car” period is over. Welcome the Self-driving vehicles. Reviewed by Frantzeska Papadopoulou on Thursday, December 06, 2018 Rating: 5

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