TOKYO – Leading automakers like Ford Motor and Toyota Motor are catching up with tech giants in the global race to develop self-driving technologies, new patent data reveals.
The two companies took the top two spots on a list of the most competitive companies in terms of patents related to autonomous driving technology. The list was compiled by Nikkei and is based on a survey of patents filed in the US in late January and conducted by Patent Result Co., a Tokyo-based company that analyzes such licenses.
Ford and Toyota have overtaken Waymo, the autonomous car company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, which topped the July 2018 list.
As self-driving technology is approaching practical use, automakers are now threatening, due to their specialist knowledge in conventional automobile construction, with unique IT powerhouses that were once ahead of the curve.
A total of 12 Japanese companies, including Sony and major automakers such as Toyota, Honda Motor and Nissan Motor, were in the top 50 on the list. But Japanese players are still lagging behind their rivals in the US and China in terms of total distances covered in US public road tests
In the survey commissioned by Nikkei, Patent Result analyzed the competitiveness of a patent based on the frequency with which it was cited in reports from international organizations, the frequency with which it was challenged by other companies and the number of complaints filed in connection with it . Nikkei then made the list, which showed that the higher the score, the more competitive a company is.
Ford topped the list with a score of 6,054 with 1,195 patents in force, followed by Toyota with a score of 5,349 out of 1,705 patents. Waymo slipped to third place with 4,895 points and 582 patents.
Established automakers and auto parts suppliers took seven of the top 10 spots. Ford’s score was 260% higher than the previous poll, while Toyota’s jumped 140%. Waymo did well too, increasing his score by 70% this time around.
Toyota and Ford have overtaken Waymo by greatly increasing their autonomous driving patents. Both companies currently have 2.5 times more patents than they did then. Waymo’s number of patents also increased, but by a less impressive 80%.
Another reason conventional automobile manufacturers have advanced is the large number of patents they hold for traditional automobile technologies. As self-driving technology has become more practical, these patents have been cited and targeted more frequently in legal remedies.
In terms of the competitiveness of drive technology, Toyota was in the lead with 3,467 points, followed by Ford with 3,137 points. Waymo fell behind with 2,486 points.
Ford and Toyota have highly competitive technologies for customizing engine power and building control systems. Ford in particular is far ahead of its competitors in autonomous parking technology with a corresponding score of 1,115 points, three and five times higher than that of Toyota and Waymo.
Ford took the lead in this space in 2019 with the acquisition of Quantum Signal AI, a company focused on mobile robotics, modeling, and simulation. The automaker is on the right track to equipping its vehicles with the technology in the not too distant future. given that it was successfully demonstrated in the US in 2020.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, a non-life company, ranked fifth thanks to its competitive sensor technology that gathers information about self-driving vehicles over the Internet and assesses vehicle conditions.
Its sensor-related patents have been cited 2,552 times by inventors of patented autonomous driving technologies, 70% more than the Toyota benchmark. Although the insurer only owns 231 patents, a seventh of Toyota’s, the quality of its patents is highly valued as sensor technology is at the heart of autonomous driving.
Chinese and South Korean companies have also built a respectable presence among the top 50 players. In the previous poll, only one South Korean company, Hyundai Motor, was on the top 50 list. This time, however, five South Korean and two Chinese companies made the list. Baidu, the largest Internet search engine in China, was ranked 23rd and NIO, a multinational electric vehicle manufacturer headquartered in Shanghai, was ranked 35th.
Some IT giants have dropped out of the race. Uber Technologies completed the sale of its autonomous drive unit Uber Advanced Technologies Group to the self-driving autostartup Aurora Innovation in late January.
Lyft announced in late April that it would sell its autonomous vehicle business to Toyota. Some IT companies are pulling out of the market after some high profile accidents in recent years that resulted in poor media coverage.