Patents is a virtue for automakers

Car manufacturers are way ahead of technology companies when it comes to developing autonomous cars, according to a new report.

Although they might not be as savvy as tech companies when it comes to self-promotion, automakers lead the way when it comes to patents.

The report, by the Intellectual Property and Science division of Thomson Reuters, is based on detailed analysis of patent within the autonomous-car industry.

Speaking to Reuters, Tony Trippe, principal author of the report, said, ‘Automakers aren’t as good as technology companies in tooting their own horns, but when you look at the patent data, the automakers are all over this.’

Toyota is far and away the leader in the number of self-driving patents, with Google the highest-placed tech company down in 26th place on the list.

Robert Bosch GmbH is second on the list, ahead of Denso Corp, Hyundai Motor Co, and General Motors Co.

With more than 1,400 patents, Toyota has more than double any other company. One of its latest patents is for software that avoids a car’s self-driving system defaulting to manual mode unless the driver intends to turn off self-driving system.

However, the number of patents does not necessarily equate to leadership in the market. Non-US companies are more aggressive in filing patents, while the quality of the patent is also crucial.

There is also an 18-month time lag between patent filing and when they become public.