The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Airless tires are being developed in the automotive industry for safety, sustainability, performance, cost, and electric vehicle demand, offering puncture-proof, sustainable materials, improved handling, and reduced maintenance costs. Michelin’s honeycomb-structured airless tire, Goodyear’s interconnected spoke airless tire, Bridgestone‘s rubber-plastic hybrid tire, and Nexo’s Tweel airless tire are among the latest innovations in the automotive industry. These technologies aim to improve safety, sustainability, performance, and cost, with the potential to become more widely available in the coming years. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.7 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in automotive: airless tires. 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 stabilizing 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.

300+ 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 one million patents, there are 300+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, integrated multi-motor drivetrains, electric power steering (EPS), and post-collision handling are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Variable compression engines, V2V distance monitoring, and turbocharger shaft bearings are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) and plasma-jet ignition, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Airless tires is a key innovation area in automotive

An airless tire, also known as a non-pneumatic tire, is a type of tire that does not require air pressure to maintain shape and provide stability. Instead, these tires use a variety of technologies, such as spokes, elastomers, or other materials, to provide structural support.

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 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of airless tires.

Key players in airless tires – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to airless tires

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Kumho Tire 21 Unlock Company Profile
Bridgestone 147 Unlock Company Profile
CITIC Group 3 Unlock Company Profile
Compagnie Generale des Etablissements Michelin 346 Unlock Company Profile
Yokohama Rubber 16 Unlock Company Profile
Toyo Tire 2 Unlock Company Profile
Sino-Thai Engineering & Construction Public 2 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 5 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 3 Unlock Company Profile
Goodyear Tire & Rubber 107 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 17 Unlock Company Profile
Hankook Tire & Technology 29 Unlock Company Profile
MTD Products 10 Unlock Company Profile
BASF 9 Unlock Company Profile
SoftBank Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sumitomo Electric Industries 56 Unlock Company Profile
Seino 7 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 6 Unlock Company Profile
RAILBLAZA 8 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Societe De Technologie Michelin 2 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Michelin is one of the key patent filers in airless tire technology, offering advantages such as puncture-proofness, low maintenance, improved fuel efficiency, and reduced environmental impact. Bridgestone and Goodyear are some of the other key patent filers in this space.

In terms of application diversity, Societe De Technologie leads the pack, while Caterpillar and Samsung stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Sumitomo held the top position, followed by BASF and Yokohama Rubber.

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.