The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity in passive safety systems is driven by stringent safety regulations and standards set by government authorities worldwide to adopt passive safety systems, rising incidence of road accidents, consumer demand for advanced safety features, advancements in crash test standards, and growing importance of technologies such as airbags, side-impact beams, pedestrian protection systems, and whiplash protection systems. 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: passive safety systems. 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

Passive safety systems is a key innovation area in automotive

Passive safety systems in autonomous vehicles refer to technologies that are designed to protect vehicle occupants and other road users in the event of an accident. Features such as airbags, safety belts, and collision-avoidance devices are examples of these systems that operate without the driver's input or intervention.

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 passive safety systems.

Key players in passive safety systems – 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 passive safety systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Hyundai Mobis 8 Unlock Company Profile
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance 3 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 16 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 17 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 5 Unlock Company Profile
Autoliv 14 Unlock Company Profile
LG Display 1 Unlock Company Profile
TS Tech 5 Unlock Company Profile
Hon Hai Precision Industry 3 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 3 Unlock Company Profile
Amazon.com 78 Unlock Company Profile
LG 10 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 2 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 9 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 9 Unlock Company Profile
Thorley Industries 4 Unlock Company Profile
Nuro 231 Unlock Company Profile
Intelligent Technologies International 1 Unlock Company Profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 1 Unlock Company Profile
Xandar Kardian 3 Unlock Company Profile
SSW Partners 32 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Nuro is one of the leading patent filers in passive safety systems It is a self-driving delivery vehicle company that is developing innovative passive safety systems to protect its occupants and other road users. The company's passive safety systems are designed to work in conjunction with Nuro's self-driving technology to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. Nuro's vehicles are designed with crush zones that absorb energy in the event of a collision. This helps to protect the occupants of the vehicle by reducing the amount of force that is transferred to them. Some other key patent filers in the space include Amazon.com, SSW Partners, and Alphabet.

In terms of application diversity, Amazon.com leads the pack, while Nuro and Hyundai Mobis stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Nuro held the top position, followed by SSW Partners and Alphabet.

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.