Google, Apple and other giants of the smartphone business have plenty of ideas about how the future of cars should be. In fact, Google alone has 310 U.S. patents relating to areas such as car-based smart devices, navigation and route guidance. Apple has another 35. Meanwhile, five other smartphone players have a total of 617 additional U.S. patents with automotive implications.
Those numbers leap out of a new report on smartphone companies’ rapidly growing interest in the car market. EnvisionIP, a patent-analysis firm in New York City, carried out the report. The study identifies seven tech companies that have been briskly filing patent applications in a bid to become “leading innovators in the smart vehicle and hybrid/electric vehicle space.”
Google has the biggest automotive-related patent portfolio, in large part because of the patents it acquired in 2012 from Motorola Mobility. The company also has some intriguing patents coined by its own engineers, including Patent No. 8,457,827, which covers “modifying behavior of autonomous vehicle based on predicted behavior of other vehicles,” as well as Patent No. 8,428,873 , which applies to “panoramic images within driving directions”.
An especially intriguing Google patent application, 20130261871 — which hasn’t yet been approved — applies to “gesture-based automotive controls.” Google engineers Nicholas Hobbs and Liang-Yu Chi define these as everything from tapping to pinching or waving. Once such gestures are recognized, all sorts of responses would be possible, including adjusting a seat or changing the windshield wipers’ speed.
Other leading smartphone companies with U.S. automotive patents, according to EnvisionIP, include Samsung (234 patents), LG (161), Sony (155), Nokia (42) and BlackBerry (25).