The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity in powertrain interface is driven by automotive electrification trends, stringent emission regulations, demand for fuel efficiency, integration of advanced driver assistance systems, shift toward connected vehicles, increased complexity of powertrain systems, electrification of ancillary systems, and growing importance of technologies such as controller area network, ethernet-based communication, transmission control units, and engine control units. 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: powertrain interface. 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

Powertrain interface is a key innovation area in automotive

Powertrain interface refers to the technologies and devices used to control the interaction between the vehicle's powertrain and its environment, including other vehicles, obstacles, and road conditions. These technologies and devices include regenerative braking systems, speed-limiting driving control, and sensors for obstacle detection.

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 powertrain interface.

Key players in powertrain interface – 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 powertrain interface

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Zhongtong Bus 1 Unlock Company Profile
Subaru 3 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 33 Unlock Company Profile
ABB 3 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 5 Unlock Company Profile
BYD 5 Unlock Company Profile
BAIC BluePark New Energy Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 14 Unlock Company Profile
Reckitt Benckiser Group 6 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 13 Unlock Company Profile
Jiangling Motors 2 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 5 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 3 Unlock Company Profile
Zhengzhou Yutong Bus 2 Unlock Company Profile
Textron 3 Unlock Company Profile
Amazon.com 20 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 6 Unlock Company Profile
Kubota 4 Unlock Company Profile
Continental 6 Unlock Company Profile
Ssangyong Motor 1 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 6 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 7 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Wuzheng Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
WM Motor Technology Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Epiroc 4 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Automotive Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Borgward China 1 Unlock Company Profile
Ninebot Beijing Tech 14 Unlock Company Profile
Twin Harbor Labs 1 Unlock Company Profile
Weltmeister Intelligent Travel Technology (Shanghai) 1 Unlock Company Profile
Zhejiang Feidie Automobile Manufacturing 1 Unlock Company Profile
KPIT Technologies 12 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toyota Motor is one of the leading patent filers in powertrain interface. Developed by Toyota Motor, Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) is a hybrid powertrain system that uses a combination of an electric motor and an internal combustion engine to power the vehicle. HSD also includes a regenerative braking system that captures energy from the vehicle's wheels when the brakes are applied and converts it into electricity. This electricity is then stored in the vehicle's battery and used to power the electric motor. Some other key patent filers in the space include Amazon.com, Hyundai Motor, and Ninebot Beijing Tech.

In terms of application diversity, Kubota leads the pack, while Kia and Robert Bosch Stiftung stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Amazon.com held the top position, followed by KPIT Technologies and Ford Motor.

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.