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: Occupant safety systems. Buy the report here.

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, resilient spoke wheels, auto-transmission lubrication circuits, and ignition switching engines are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Engine purge actuators, electro-dynamic braking, and adsorptive vapour recovery system estimation are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are collision avoidance braking control system and direct injection type engines, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Occupant safety systems is a key innovation area in automotive

A vehicle's occupant safety system – also known as an occupant protection system – helps in reducing the severity of the injuries and provide safety within a minuscule time span. Occupants are protected by restraint systems like seatbelts and airbags in case of various front, side, rear and rollover crash situations.

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 occupant safety systems.

Key players in occupant safety systems – 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 occupant safety systems

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Hyundai Motor Group 46 Unlock Company Profile
Toyoda Iron Works 34 Unlock Company Profile
Renault 29 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 28 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 27 Unlock Company Profile
Mondragonoracion Cooperativa 19 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 18 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 17 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 16 Unlock Company Profile
CJ Automotive 14 Unlock Company Profile
Mazda Motor 12 Unlock Company Profile
Donghee 12 Unlock Company Profile
Ksr Ip Holdings 9 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 8 Unlock Company Profile
SL 8 Unlock Company Profile
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
AKWEL 8 Unlock Company Profile
Flex-N-Gate 8 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Motors 7 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 7 Unlock Company Profile
Yorozu 7 Unlock Company Profile
Kyung Chang Industrial 6 Unlock Company Profile
Mercedes-Benz Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
Suzuki Motor 6 Unlock Company Profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 6 Unlock Company Profile
F-Tech 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Hyundai is one of the leading innovators in occupant safety systems with 46 patents. The company has made significant investments in research and testing to continually improve the safety performance of all its models. Advanced electronic safety features are standard on all Hyundai vehicles, which are designed to withstand impact and safeguard all occupants in the event of a collision. Other companies innovating in this technology domain are Kia, Toyota, and Renault.

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

Data Insights


The gold standard of business intelligence.

Blending expert knowledge with cutting-edge technology, GlobalData’s unrivalled proprietary data will enable you to decode what’s happening in your market. You can make better informed decisions and gain a future-proof advantage over your competitors.


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.