Japanese business paper Nikkei Shimbun shared the results of an analysis of relative (competitive) patent strength for autonomous driving in cars, done by Patent Result Co., Ltd (Tokyo). The results, reported September 13, 2018, show Japan’s strong showing overall in the artificial intelligence (AI) needed for self-driving vehicles, as well as some ways in which competitors in the United States may be better-positioned long-term.

Patent Result looked at US patents to make its ratings, tally showed fifteen of the top fifty-highest ranking owners of patents related to autonomous driving technology were in Japan, close behind the USA with seventeen. Toyota Motor Corporation had by far the most patents that fit the category for analysis with 684. On the other hand, the competitive edge of its patents were rated as less than the fewer than half as many patents held by Waymo, birthed out of Google.

Nikkei Shimbun also pointed out that many of the leading American companies with strong patents for self-driving vehicles are from diverse industries. Not only were GM and For Motors rated highly, also Waymo, Uber Technologies from services, and Carnegie Mellon University also have been building strong patent lineups, while in Japan mainly only automobile or automobile parts manufacturers were making the list.

Meanwhile, while Chinese companies did not make the top fifty, Nikkei interprets this as a factor of the point-assigning system Patent Result used, such as ratings for the number of appeals for invalidity against patents and frequency of citations by advanced patent reports. The surge of Chinese autonomous driving-related patents is real and its influence has simply not yet been felt strongly.

While the diversity of holders of autonomous driving patents is praised by the article, it will probably come down more to a question of which entities cooperate better and faster to come up with a portfolio dynamic and broad enough to bring trusted and reliable autonomous driving to the streets more broadly. Licensing and cooperation will probably play a role even for the big-name car makers.

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