The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity in compression ignition (CI) engine controls is driven by fuel efficiency, emissions regulations, hybridization, and electrification, and growing importance of technologies such as electronic control units (ECUs), sensors, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning. 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: CI engine controls. 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 the 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

CI engine controls is a key innovation area in automotive

CI engine controls refer to the methods and techniques used to operate and control internal combustion engines in a more efficient and effective manner. These controls regulate various aspects of engine operation such as fuel injection, ignition timing, air-fuel mixture, and combustion modes to optimize performance, improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and enhance overall engine operation.

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 CI engine controls.

Key players in CI engine controls – 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 CI engine controls

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Rolls-Royce 9 Unlock Company Profile
Daimler AG (USA) 1 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 10 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 61 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 9 Unlock Company Profile
E.ON 2 Unlock Company Profile
Halliburton 6 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 11 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 16 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 1 Unlock Company Profile
Suzuki Motor 3 Unlock Company Profile
EcoMotors International 1 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 290 Unlock Company Profile
Deere 1 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 15 Unlock Company Profile
Saudi Arabian Oil 10 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 17 Unlock Company Profile
Wartsila 3 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 6 Unlock Company Profile
IMAGINEERING 11 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 3 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Mazda Motor is one of the leading patent filers in CI engine controls. It uses machine learning and AI technologies to continuously optimize engine control strategies based on driving patterns, environmental conditions, and individual driver behavior. The advanced thermal management system used by the company optimizes engine temperature, contributing to improved combustion efficiency and reduced emissions. Some other key patent filers in this space include Toyota Motor and General Motors.

In terms of application diversity, Hitachi leads the pack, while Halliburton and EcoMotors International stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Mazda Motor held the top position followed by Halliburton and IMAGINEERING.

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.