The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for enhanced driving experience, fuel efficiency, and engine performance, and growing importance of technologies such as sensors, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. 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: Road friction estimation. 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

Road friction estimation is a key innovation area in automotive

The amount of friction an automobile's tyre has with the ground determines its maximum acceleration and more importantly its shortest stopping distance. There are five different ways to measure road friction: locked wheel (100% slip), constant slip (typically between 10% and 20% slip), variable slip (0% to 100% slip), constant slip angle (typically 200), and retardation measurement of a typical ABS braked car.

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 road friction estimation.

Key players in road friction estimation – 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 road friction estimation

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Bridgestone 71 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 29 Unlock company profile
Camfin 23 Unlock company profile
Nissan Motor 19 Unlock company profile
Tata Motors 17 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 15 Unlock company profile
Compagnie Generale des Etablissements Michelin 13 Unlock company profile
Continental 12 Unlock company profile
COSCO Shipping Holdings 11 Unlock company profile
Isuzu Motors 11 Unlock company profile
Denso 10 Unlock company profile
General Motors 10 Unlock company profile
Tokai 9 Unlock company profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 8 Unlock company profile
Pioneer 7 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 6 Unlock company profile
Zeppelin-Stiftung 6 Unlock company profile
Uber Technologies 6 Unlock company profile
Hankook Tire & Technology 5 Unlock company profile
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group 5 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 5 Unlock company profile
Stella Vermogensverwaltungs 5 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Motors 5 Unlock company profile
Hexagon 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Bridgestone is one of the leading innovators in road friction estimation with 71 patents. The company provides active safety systems including antilock braking systems, electronic stability control systems, and active collision avoidance systems. Antilock braking systems' primary job is to prevent wheel lock during hard braking and to keep the amount of traction between the tyres and the pavement at a desirable level. The tyre road friction coefficient is typically used to calculate the magnitude of this ideal traction. Other companies innovating in this technology domain are Hexagon, Ford, and Denso.

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.