You may worry about the number of horses, cylinders or doors but what really matters isn't under the hood but under the CPU box. Cars will be more of a computer with wheels than even before and software developers are scuttling around to get as many patents as they can lay their hands on. Like google, with a mind blowing 300+ US patents, apple with a mere 30+ and some other players to make up to over 615 patents in the US.
The ramifications are also mind blowing: Car makers have to make deals with software giants to use things like navigation and guidance, in-tertainment but most likely also stuff like follow-that-car cruising, traffic sign recognition and other systems that will connect directly to your cars steering, power adjusting and environmentally optimized exhaust systems. The dark side of the coin? I don't expect cars crashing as patents are clashing in court but I'm getting worried and frustrated by the generalization of patents description. Moving your hand to make your car "do something" is a patent filed by google. To be precise it's not yet granted but imagine an iphone user pinching his car and nothing happens in his Google-Droid automated car? Or raising your fist at a moron in front of you and suddenly your cars crashes it from behind. Or a mood detector that will measure your aggression, sets up some ambient lights and scents in your car at the same time tranquilizing music is being played at an inaudible frequency only to be heard by your unconscious mind?
On an entirely other level it also signifies some interesting alliances: Audi, set to become Germany's leading top-brand per 2016 is teaming up with Google whilst other brands like BMW and Mercedes are said to look at iOs. Audi, a brand cherished by Volkswagen, has traditionally been by far the most innovative of the VW car brands. With Lamborghini being an Audi based supercar-brand we should expect some nice touches in their line up, probably in the 2016 or maybe the 2015 model year.
These numbers are distilled out of Envision latest report on smartphone companies’ gearing up for the automotive market. EnvisionIP is a patent-analysing firm based in New York. The study looked at seven tech companies that have been filing patent applications in a bid to become “leading innovators in the smart vehicle and hybrid/electric vehicle space.”
EnvisionIP”s founder and managing director, Maulin Shah, reports that Google has the biggest automotive-related patent portfolio, partly due to taking over Motorola Mobility. But he says Google also has some interesting patents thrown in by its own engineers, including Patent No. 8,457,827. This is a patent that covers “modifying behavior of autonomous vehicle based on predicted behavior of other vehicles,”. It also has listed Patent No. 8,428,873 , which applies to “panoramic images within driving directions”. I may be wrong here but my 2011 tomtom has a similar function.
We should hear a lot more this year about the melting of smartphone technology into the car of your future. As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier, Google and Audi are expected to announce that they will be working together on developing in-car gadgets based on Android. It's also known that Apples' iOS operating system is looked at by FoMocO and German manufacturers like BMW and Daimler Benz.