Futuristic Vehicles – Patent Trends & Insights
Futuristic Vehicles – Patent Trends & Insights: If we go by the Cambridge definition1, futuristic means: Strange and very modern seeming to come from some imagined time in the future. However, futuristic can also be considered a relative term, as the electric vehicles of the present generation can be regarded as futuristic, when compared to the era of cars like Ford Mustang and Shelby Cobra that ruled roads around the world. Similarly, when Carl Benz patented his one-cylinder two-stroke unit which ran for the first time on New Year’s Eve in 18792, it would have been considered quite futuristic back then.
The first automobile2
Let’s discover notable futuristic vehicular upgrades that have laid the foundation for the future.
Patents That Shaped The Future Of Vehicles
- The steam engine by James Watt = GB176900913A5
- The Internal Combustion Engine by James Atkinson = US4549366
- The Diesel Engine Rudolf Diesel = GB189207241A7
Over the years, vehicle manufacturers have achieved remarkable progress. Be it in achieving the blistering pace on F1 track by exploring aerodynamic designs, reducing fuel emissions to tackle issues like environmental pollution or designing vehicles suitable for any terrain; we have come a long way since the boxy cars in the 80s.
The introduction of seatbelts, anti-lock breaking system, automatic transmission and airbags not only brought comfort for the riders but also improved their safety. Even aircraft nowadays are equipped with auto-pilot and air-to-air refuelling. In the present scenario, the main challenge for the manufacturers is to reduce carbon emissions to keep pace with growing demand for protection of the environment – without compromising with the requirement of the consumer. Also, in order to make vehicle rides accessible for the differently-abled, as well as to give them an independence to operate vehicle on their own, manufacturers and designers are investing big bucks in their R&D.
Let’s discuss the technologies that are changing the way we ride, as well as try to find out the car makers who are leading the path, along with countries having the highest number of patent filings.
- Electric Cars
- Driverless Cars
- AI Supported Car Services
- How old are electric cars?
The electric vehicle was first developed in the 19th century although the patent filed for them can be traced back to 1893 (GB189316226). The reason for the slow progress in the development of electric cars could be attributed to the lack of energy storage devices back then (Lithium-ion batteries entered the market in 199121). The cheaper cars at that time were powered by internal combustion engines instead.
- The need for electric cars?
Nowadays, vehicles are a major cause of air pollution as they produce significant amounts of hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants emitted into our air. The ever-increasing prices of crude oil have led the innovators to look for alternate sources of energy which is not only clean but also easily renewable. Hence, the electric vehicle received a big push, out of growing concern for the environment and the availability of power storage devices such as the lithium-ion battery.
- Can these cars put up a fight?
Tech giants like Tesla motors have launched “Model S” that can reach 60 mph in around 2.4 seconds12 and “Tesla cyber truck” that can reach 60 mph in less than 6.5 seconds. Electric vehicles such as Tesla’s cyber truck (undergoing production in 202113,14) are battery powered light commercial vehicles that have a towing capacity of 7500+LBS. Not only Tesla, but Nio’s “EP9” and Aston Martin’s “Rapide E15, are some of the battery powered supercars yet to be launched which can put up tough fight against the conventional fuel based supercars16.
- Who stands out in the patent filing trend?
If we go by the patent filing trend in the last five years more than 1 Lakh patents were filed which included various technologies related to electric vehicles. The trend shows:
Top positioned Toyota stands way ahead of the Hyundai Motors and Ford Global Technologies which are placed fourth and sixth respectively in the list of top assignees.
The patent application saw a sudden rise after 2014 which kept on rising till 2017 and we shouldn’t be surprised if we see higher numbers in upcoming years.
China leads the list of countries by having the highest number of patent filings in the past five years.
*The above-mentioned graph can be used in association with the map shown below, where the country with the higher number of patent filing can be seen with higher contrast of the colour.
The driverless cars which were once common in comics and sci-fi movies, are now without a doubt a major automotive sector that is being aggressively pursued by car manufacturers. It not only reduces the effort required by the driver but also improves the scope of differently abled people to go out on their own. The driverless car can sense its surrounding and can make improvisations to avoid collision and/or reduce the impact of an unavoidable collision. The bar graph shows:
- Ford global technologies (479) sits atop on the list of number of patents filed in the past decade by the same assignee, followed by Toyota motors (392) and GM global technology operations (344). WAYMO also got the spot among the top assignee, which was way ahead of Honda (252) and Hyundai (154) motors.
- The patent filing for tech related to driverless cars got the boost in the year 2009 which kept on increasing till 2017. We can expect this rise in the coming years as new players are coming up to explore these areas and are challenging existing giant car makers with a run for their money.
- China and the USA were the world leaders with maximum filing for the technology related to driverless cars as they occupy first and second position respectively and are way ahead of other top 10 countries in the list.
The above-mentioned graph can be used in association with the map shown below, where the country with the higher number of patent filing can be seen with higher contrast of the colour.
AI supported Cars & Services
Those days may have to find their place in the history books when a person carrying a big load has to open the trunk of the vehicle on his own; or when a driver has to adjust the volume of the music while riding the vehicle (an action that puts his life at risk). The car makers are now coming up with technologies like augmented reality (heads-up display), gesture recognition etc., which were earlier only a part of comics and sci-fi movies. We will discuss gesture recognition and heads-up display briefly along with their patent filing trends and their top players.
Vehicle with gesture recognition system
AI enabled cars can recognize the hand gesture of the rider to identify the requirement like changing temperature inside the car, volume of the music, etc. AI also enables the cars to identify the rider from a distance and open the door of the vehicle as well as the trunk of the car when it detects that the person is carrying items in his/her hand. In the last 10 years, around 3000 patents were filed on technologies related to gesture recognition in vehicle. During the analysis we found:
Audi (141) occupied the top spot in the top assignee list narrowly leading Volkswagen (138) and Hyundai motors (129).
The trend picked up its pace in 2009 till the year 2016. However the trend lost some pace in 2017.
China (1014) yet again claimed the top spot followed by US (944) and Germany (684).
The above-mentioned graph can be used in association with the map shown below, where the country with a higher number of patent filing can be seen with higher contrast of the colour.
Vehicle with heads-up display system
Driving is a lot easier and safer today. The augmented reality displays information to the driver on the windshield of the car within the line of sight without putting him/her at risk. Vital information is related to the driver, such as: the amount of fuel left, surrounding traffic and traffic signs that are translated to the language of the driver or suggesting an alternate route that a driver can take to reach quickly to the destination.
Around 7000 patents were filed since 2010 on the heads-up display (HUDs) all around the world. Below mentioned images shows the contribution of various assignees in the last decade (2010-2019).
Nippon Seiki (Japan) claimed the top spot in the list of top assignees, followed by Denso and the UDC.
The patent filing trend of tech related to HUDs picked the pace in the year 2009 and continued till 2017. This trend is expected to go up for upcoming years (2019 onwards).
China grabbed the top spots followed by the U.S. in the list of the top countries with maximum number of patent filing in the last decade.
The above mentioned graph can be used in association with the map shown below, where the country with higher number of patent filing can be seen with higher contrast of the colour.
Note: The trend cited in the above images are considered only up to the year 2017, as the patent application filed in the year 2018 – 2019 may still be undergoing through the procedure of filing and waiting to get the status of granted patents. The trend is subjected to change by the change in the legal status of patent.
Note: All the data, facts & trends presented here are restricted to our search strategies that run on Questel Orbit database. The actual figures may vary depending upon the specific requirements and iterations.
From the above article it can be concluded that the futuristic technology trend picked up pace in late 2000s (mostly around 2009) which is still hitting new landmarks by shattering the record of the previous years. It will be interesting to see how the new players can perform in these areas as we are expecting a greater number of patent filings in the coming years. China performed the best amongst the list of countries by grabbing the top spot in all the above sections20. United States and Japan occupied the second and third spot respectively. Toyota was the top performer in the list of top assignees as they managed the spot in top 10 in every section discussed above. Audi, Ford Global Technologies and Volkswagen are also amongst the top ten.
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- Akhil Kumar, Parteek Saxena
(Engineering) and the Editorial team