The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by increased focus on passenger and driver safety and growing importance of technologies such as sensors, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.2 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Automotive: Air bags. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

290+ innovations will shape the automotive industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over 619,000 patents, there are 290+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, eccentric crankshaft gears, retarder brake system, and closed-circuit liquid cooling are interesting technologies that are in the early stages of widespread application and should be tracked closely. Bio-fuel ICEs, electromagnetic valve actuators, and road friction estimation are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are tyre bead fillers and vehicle turbochargers, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Air bags is a key innovation area in automotive

Air bags inflate when a sensor detects a front-end collision severe enough to activate them. The sensor sends an electric signal, which initiates a chemical reaction that fills the air bag with harmless nitrogen gas.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of air bags.

Key players in air bags – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to air bags

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Toyobo 118 Unlock Company Profile
Kolon 102 Unlock Company Profile
Toray Industries 99 Unlock Company Profile
Invista Textiles 56 Unlock Company Profile
Autoliv 38 Unlock Company Profile
Asahi Kasei 35 Unlock Company Profile
Kolon Industries 30 Unlock Company Profile
Hyosung 26 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 21 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 11 Unlock Company Profile
Milliken & Co 8 Unlock Company Profile
Unifrax I 8 Unlock Company Profile
Teijin 7 Unlock Company Profile
Andritz 6 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Boshoku 6 Unlock Company Profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toyobo is one of the leading innovators of air bags. The company has formed a joint venture to produce high performance nylon yarns for automobile airbags with Bangkok-based Indorama Polyester Industries which is part of Indorama Ventures, the world's largest producer of polyethylene terephthalate. The joint venture opened a new plant on the IPI factory site in Rayong Province, Thailand in October 2022. Kolon industries and Toray industries are few other patent filers in the innovation area.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.