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The future of self-driving vehicles

Written by Demi- Leigh Mason, a student at Southampton Solent University on 13 December 2018

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It seems likely that by 2025, the first self-driving vehicles will be commercially acquirable. There are a number of major players in this new upcoming market, and there are already established automotive firms investing into the digital technology, along with an upcoming group of patent holders that specialise in wireless communications.

The European Patent Office published a report in November 2018 which was titled ‘patents and self-driving vehicles’ giving an overview of the patent landscape in this emerging field. The patents and their applications related to self-driving vehicles are divided into two main categories; the automated vehicle sector which looks at allowing the vehicles to make decisions and the smart environment sector that allows self-driving vehicles to communicate with each other as well as their surroundings.  It has been reported that the patent activity in the two sectors have increased vastly by more than 330% since 2011.

Europe and the USA are known to be the leaders in the self-driving vehicles innovation, with Germany being the most active country. Germany made 2151 patent applications between the years 2011 to 2017. Sweden and France follow with around 700 applications while Japan has been reported to have decreased in position over the last ten years. Korea and China are slowing making more progress, catching up with Japan, even though their first patent contribution was as late as in 2013.

There has been a considerable amount of investments made in the self-driving vehicle sector, which is reflected due to the increased patent activity. In the USA, for example, more than 80 billion dollars was invested in the development of self-driving vehicles between 2014 and 2017.

The top patent applications in the self-driving vehicles field are Samsung as number one, followed closely by Intel, Qualcomm, LG, Robert Bosch and Toyota.

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