Global Patents Reflect New Advances in Connected, Self-Driving Cars

Jan 20, 2015 08:00 AM EST | Matt Mercuro

Advances made in driver assistance systems and telematics are picking up steam as the enablers of future self-driving and connected cars, according to a new study on global patent applications.

Hyundai posted the biggest gains in the amount of patent filings since 2010, closing the gap with industry leader Toyota, according to the report, titled "The State of Innovation in the Automotive Industry 2015," conducted by Thomson Reuters IP & Science.

For the survey, researchers analyzed applications and mapped out trends in five major areas: navigation, handling, security, entertainment and propulsion. Hyundai was one of the leaders in each category, finishing third overall behind Toyota and Robert Bosch.

Hyundai, along with its sister company Kia Motors, is fifth in global sales, outperforming the overall auto market due to its affordable, yet trendy vehicles. Experts believe the two companies also lack a technological edge to compete with its rivals.

Hyundai's patent filings doubled from 500 in 2010 to 1,200 in 2013, according to the new survey.

Toyota is the over leader in terms of auto innovations, those protected with patents, though Hyundai is the most up-and-coming innovator, the report said.

"Hyundai has belatedly realized the importance of patents and has been keeping pace with rivals," said Jung Dong-joon, representative attorney of SU Intellectual Property, according to Reuters. "While Hyundai has increased the number of its patent filings, it is still a follower in terms of patent quality," he said, adding that Hyundai needs to secure more core patents.

Overall, Asian and German companies dominated the top 10 for patent applications. GM, which ranked seventh, was the only U.S. company to make the list.    

Though Google might be dominating the headlines when it comes to driverless cars, Toyota, GM and Hyundai received the most patents, one of the report's authors Bob Stembridge said, according to Reuters.

"We see a lot of increasing activity in telematics and driver assistance systems as the supporting technologies for self-driving cars," said Stembridge, an analyst with Thomson Reuters IP & Science, according to Reuters.

GM and Hyundai lead advances made in telematics. Bosch, Daimler, Continental AG, Valeo SA and Volkswagen's Audi were among the leaders in driver-assistance patents.

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