The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity in touchless vehicle interfaces is driven by enhanced user experience, safety, customization, personalization, and distraction mitigation, and growing importance of technologies such as gesture recognition, and voice and natural language processing. 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: touchless vehicle interfaces. 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

Touchless vehicle interfaces is a key innovation area in automotive

Touchless vehicle interfaces refer to systems and technologies that allow users to interact with a vehicle without physically touching any controls or surfaces. These interfaces utilize sensors, cameras, and other technologies to detect and interpret gestures, voice commands, or other non-contact inputs from the user, enabling them to control various functions and features of the vehicle without traditional physical contact.

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 touchless vehicle interfaces.

Key players in touchless vehicle interfaces – 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 touchless vehicle interfaces

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Huawei Investment & Holding 32 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 221 Unlock Company Profile
Cox Enterprises 127 Unlock Company Profile
Baidu 53 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo 30 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 162 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 21 Unlock Company Profile
Apple 34 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 126 Unlock Company Profile
Aptiv 71 Unlock Company Profile
Nissan Motor 41 Unlock Company Profile
Pioneer 25 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 25 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 73 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 79 Unlock Company Profile
Nokia 21 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 218 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 198 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 73 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 51 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 28 Unlock Company Profile
LG 433 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 49 Unlock Company Profile
Continental 22 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 108 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 33 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 126 Unlock Company Profile
Micron Technology 22 Unlock Company Profile
Nio 57 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 70 Unlock Company Profile
Maxell 25 Unlock Company Profile
Stradvision 24 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

LG is one of the leading patent filers in touchless vehicle interfaces. The company’s innovations in sensor technologies, such as gesture recognition sensors, infrared sensors, and camera-based systems, enable precise and responsive detection of hand gestures or movements within the vehicle. Its innovative display technologies and interactive interfaces, including touchless displays, augmented reality interfaces, and gesture-controlled infotainment systems, are designed to provide intuitive and user-friendly interactions. The company integrates artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into touchless interfaces to create more personalized and adaptive user experiences.  Some other key patent filers in this space include Toyota Motor and Panasonic.

In terms of application diversity, Nio leads the pack, while Cox Enterprise and Stradvision stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Cox Enterprises held the top position, followed by Nio 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