The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity in light detection and ranging (LiDAR) scanners is driven by an increased demand for autonomous vehicles, advancements in sensor technology, and the need for high-resolution, three-dimensional view of the environment to improve vehicle safety, and growing importance of radar technologies such as solid-state, frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW), silicon photonics, and multi-beam models for smaller, lighter, and more reliable alternatives. 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 Internet of Things in automotive: LiDAR scanners. 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, LiDAR scanners, smart automotive lighting, and autonomous steering are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Vehicle sensor network, AV tire health monitoring, and collision avoidance systems are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are remote trip monitoring and smart speed governors, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the automotive industry

LiDAR scanners is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

LiDAR scanners are remote sensing instruments that use laser technology to measure distances and create 3D models of environments. They emit laser beams that reflect off objects and are then detected by the scanner, allowing it to measure the time it takes for the laser to return and calculate the distance to the object.

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 30 companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of LiDAR scanners.

Key players in LiDAR scanners – 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 LiDAR scanners

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Huawei Investment & Holding 81 Unlock Company Profile
Lyft 5 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 2 Unlock Company Profile
Baidu 4 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 144 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 8 Unlock Company Profile
NXP Semiconductors 2 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 9 Unlock Company Profile
LG Display 3 Unlock Company Profile
U.S. Department of Defence 2 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 3 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 2 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 3 Unlock Company Profile 3 Unlock Company Profile
NVIDIA 2 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 5 Unlock Company Profile
LG 14 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sick 3 Unlock Company Profile
Uber Technologies 20 Unlock Company Profile
SZ DJI Technology 12 Unlock Company Profile
Nio 27 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Aurora Innovation 2 Unlock Company Profile
Metawave 2 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 1 Unlock Company Profile
Luminar Technologies 36 Unlock Company Profile
Aurora Operations 12 Unlock Company Profile
Uatc 11 Unlock Company Profile
SSW Partners 2 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Alphabet is the top patent filer in LiDAR scanners for the automotive industry. This allows the company to control the development of LiDAR technology and prevents other companies from using it without a license. The company's patents cover scanning systems, point cloud processing, and map generation, crucial for autonomous vehicles. Alphabet's investment in LiDAR technology is driven by its belief that it will play a key role in the future of transportation. Huawei Investment & Holding is the second-largest patent holder in this technology, with 81 patents, followed by Luminar Technologies with 36 patents.

In terms of application diversity, Nio leads the pack, while Luminar Technologies and LG stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Nio held the top position, followed by Alphabet and Hitachi.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in 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.