The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for enhanced driving experience, safety, and convenience as well as the increasing importance of technologies such as electric, connected, and autonomous vehicles. 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: Seat-mounted airbags.

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, eccentric crankshaft gears, retarder brake system, and closed-circuit liquid cooling are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Bio-fuel ICEs, electromagnetic valve actuators, and road friction estimation are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are tyre bead fillers and vehicle turbochargers, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Seat-mounted airbags is a key innovation area in automotive

Seat-mounted airbags are designed to protect the head, torso, or both in the event of a side impact in an accident and are mostly used in the front seats of a vehicle. Seat airbags can be used separately or in tandem with side curtain airbags as part of the side airbag system.

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of seat-mounted airbags.

Key players in seat-mounted airbags – 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 seat-mounted airbags

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Toyota Motor 139 Unlock company profile
TS Tech 81 Unlock company profile
Toyota Boshoku 81 Unlock company profile
Autoliv 62 Unlock company profile
Lear 51 Unlock company profile
Ford Motor 40 Unlock company profile
General Motors 34 Unlock company profile
Faurecia 25 Unlock company profile
Tachi-S 20 Unlock company profile
Johnson Controls International 17 Unlock company profile
Ningbo Joyson Electronic 12 Unlock company profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 10 Unlock company profile
Subaru 8 Unlock company profile
Who-Rae 8 Unlock company profile
CERA 6 Unlock company profile
Honda Motor 5 Unlock company profile
Magna International 5 Unlock company profile
NHK Spring 5 Unlock company profile
Mazda Motor 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toyota Motor is one of the leading patent filers in seat-mounted airbags. Toyoda Gosei and Toyota Motor collaborated to develop a new side airbag, which is currently used on the new Camry and is expected to be used on approximately 2.5 million vehicles per year in the future. Some of the other key patent filers in this area include Toyota Boshoku, TS Tech, Lear, and Ford Motor.

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


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.