Scintilla – a flash, a spark, an iota. Shorthand for creativity and an indicator of inventiveness under Australian law.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Patent data reveals autonomous vehicle surprises

By Richard Hamer

Any reader of social media knows that the leaders in autonomous vehicle research are Google and Tesla. Right?

In fact, the most active patent filer in the field is General Motors. Other traditional car companies also have a bigger presence than the well promoted and popularly perceived leaders. Chinese companies are very active in the field also.

Although not all patents are commercialised, the level of patent filings is a good indicator of a general level of research activity. Patent filing data throws up some other initially surprising information.

For example, around half the autonomous vehicle/robotics patents are not for on-road vehicles at all, but for domestic, industrial and off-road use, such as autonomous farming or mining. The autonomous lawnmower is big. With some thought this makes sense. It would be great to automate jobs like ploughing, harvesting, hauling minerals or for that matter mowing the lawn. The environment is less complex than the on-road environment and automated equipment can feed back real time information, for example about soil properties or yield, and facilitate planning and management.