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Autonomous driving, part 3: Facts and figures

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New figures and rankings: DPMA explains method of analysis

At the beginning of 2018 we published an analysis on autonomous driving. Among other things, it also dealt with the growing number of patent applications and the manufacturers holding the most patents valid in Germany. There was a lot of media coverage of our figures on this important technology of the future. In addition, we received inquiries from companies about our method of analysis. Due to the broad interest, we have decided to further expand the analysis and explain on this page how we proceed.

As reported, German manufacturers were at the top of the patent ranking with a clear lead. Last year 38% of the patents for the German market were granted to manufacturers in Germany, 30% and 13% to Japanese and US manufacturers, respectively.

Patent grants with effect in Germany published in 2017[1]
Country[2]  Number 
Germany  325 
Japan  259 
USA  112 
France  41 
Sweden  28 
Others  97 
Sum  862 
[1]patents granted by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office and the European Patent Office; EP patents at the DPMA after publication 
[2]country of the first patent holder at the end of 2017  

Audi AG ranks first among the manufacturers with the most grants in 2017, followed by Toyota Jidosha K.K. and Volkswagen AG. Our analysis now covers the ranking positions from one to ten.

Top 10 holders[1]
Top 10  Holder  Number 
AUDI AG  95 
Toyota Jidosha K.K.  63 
Robert Bosch GmbH  46 
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.  32 
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG  28 
Aisin AW Co. Ltd.  23 
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation  15 
Ford Global Technologies, LLC  14 
Volvo Car Corporation  14 
YAZAKI Corporation  14 
[1]first patent holder at the end of 2017; possible interlinking of business enterprises was not taken into consideration 

With regard to the overall patents valid on the German market at the end of 2017, German manufacturers even have a slightly bigger lead: 42% are held by stakeholders in Germany.

Patents valid in Germany at the end of 2017[1]
Country[2]  Number 
Germany  2006 
Japan  1350 
USA  527 
France  227 
Republic of Korea  150 
Others  550 
Sum  4810 
[1]patents granted by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office and the European Patent Office; EP patents at the DPMA after publication 
[2]country of the first patent holder at the end of 2017 

Since many companies here want to know where they stand, we have created an additional ranking among the German stakeholders. Robert Bosch GmbH heads the list of Germany's top patent holders as of the end of 2017. Audi AG and Volkswagen AG rank second and third respectively.

Top 10 patent holders from Germany[1]
Top 10  Holder[2]  Number 
Robert Bosch GmbH  480 
AUDI AG  321 
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG  130 
Continental Automotive GmbH  93 
Harman Becker Automotive Systems GmbH  71 
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.  44 
Continental Teves AG & Co. oHG  42 
Valeo Schalter und Sensoren GmbH  36 
10  Daimler AG  33 
10  Robert Bosch Automotive Steering GmbH  33 
[1]country of the first patent holder at the end of 2017 
[2]first patent holder at the end of 2017; possible interlinking of business enterprises was not taken into consideration 

Overall, the analysis shows that the number of applications regarding autonomous driving has increased substantially over the last ten years. While the number of patent applications in the field of autonomous driving was still around 1,000 in 2008, well over 2,500 applications were received in the relevant fields of technology last year.

So much for numbers and top lists. Now to our methods used: In order to be able to carry out the analysis, we have based it on IPC classes. The IPC is a valid international system with a hierarchical structure that subdivides the whole sector of technology into classes, assigning all patent documents worldwide to certain fields. We have identified IPC classes that deal with autonomous driving and completely analysed them in our internal DPMAstatistik database system. This means that all applications or patents contained therein have been included in the present analysis. We carried out the analysis in February 2018.

Development of patent applications at the DPMA[1]
Field of technology  IPC Main Class[2]  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012  2013  2014  2015  2016  2017 
Autonomous driving – course control in general  G05D1  29  23  27  24  45  32  48  65  73  78 
Assistance systems for drive control   B60W30/00 - B60W30/17
B60W40/00 - B60W40/10
B60W50/08 - B60W50/14 
268  285  277  343  399  468  601  785  971  1085 
Assistance systems for traffic control  G08G1/00
G08G1/096 - G08G1/0967
G08G1/097 - G08G1/16 
186  207  175  247  267  350  367  500  542  512 
Vehicle electronics in general  B60R16/02  181  222  189  189  291  345  376  348  364  461 
Navigation  G01C21/04
G01C21/26 - G01C21/36
B62D6/00 - B62D6/04
B62D1/24 - B62D1/28
G08G1/0968, G08G1/0969 
273  219  210  179  174  197  222  269  239  341 
Sensor technology environment sensor systems   G06K9/62
79  85  52  88  111  79  104  110  112  156 
Sum    1.016  1.041  930  1.070  1.287  1.471  1.718  2.077  2.301  2.633 
[1]national patent applications and PCT applications in the national phase 
[2]IPC main class valid at time of query; without any claim to be exhaustive; results not related to autonomous driving may be included  

It should be noted, however, that there is no generally valid definition for assigning patent documents to the field of autonomous driving. Neither is there an IPC class that deals exclusively with autonomous driving; it is therefore not possible to make a completely clear distinction from other technical areas. The analysis should therefore be understood as the most accurate approximation possible to the current situation on the relevant market.

More information about facts and figures of the DPMA on our webpage Statistics

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Last updated: 20 October 2020 


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