Google has more patents than most automakers on self-driving cars

The global automotive industry is at a turning point. The automobile is undergoing a transformation, moving from a means of conveyance to becoming a data center on wheels. For car manufacturers to maintain their leverage, they have to build alliances and concentrate on R&D resources. 

Why? For one reason, Google has more patents than most automakers on connected and self-driving cars. This is according to analytic firm Oliver Wyman’s new Automotive Manager released today.

“This is one of the most exciting times in the auto industry in decades, perhaps for a century. However, the excitement also brings challenges,” said August Joas, head of Oliver Wyman’s Automotive Sector. “Success – and possibly survival – depends on being nimble, flexible, and imaginative.”

Who will be the first company to put consumers behind the wheel of autonomous automobiles -- automakers or technology companies? The race is on. In an analysis of patents involving connected and self-driving cars, there were almost 1,200 patents filed between 2012 and 2016. Close to one-third were filed by tech companies, led by Google. 

Google almost ties the leader (Audi 223) in the connected car and self-driving category, with 221 patents. Google filed more than BMW (198) and Daimler (159) individually, and more than GM (141) and VW (75) combined. The other five in the non-auto group were Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Uber.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has confirmed to Bloomberg that the company is developing self-driving car technology, which he calls a “core” technology.

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said in an interview on Bloomberg Television on June 5. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult A.I. projects actually to work on.”