Cars Get One Step Closer to Hollywood’s Vision of the Future

2015 is the year Back to the Future promised us we’d have flying cars that run on food scraps. Alas, we’re a little behind the ambitious vision of the motoring future Hollywood imagined back in 1985. But we’re getting closer.

Every major automotive event this year – from the Detroit and Geneva motor shows to the Consumer Electronics Show – has been dominated by new automotive technologies. These have included cars that drive themselves, dozens of alternative-power sources and even technologies that serve up timely billboard-style advertisements for upcoming attractions like a fast food restaurant at the exit ahead. Even Apple is entering the automotive space.

But just how big a priority are these cutting-edge new technologies for the major auto manufacturers? Are they teasers designed to generate publicity, or will we really have self-driving, zero-carbon-footprint “iCars” at some point in the near future?

Based on the patent portfolios of the major auto manufacturers and suppliers, and academic research published on the topic, the Internet-connected, alternative-powered car is poised to take over the roads sooner than you may think.

Toyota currently leads the way in auto industry innovation, with over 4,000 new patents published last year alone. Hyundai is not far behind with 3,200-plus. Other leaders at the top of the pack are component manufacturers Bosch and Denso, as well as Honda, Daimler, GM and Ford. When it comes to automotive academic research, the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Co. take the top two spots globally.

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“Hyundai will provide new experiences and values beyond customer expectations. We will create a new market demand and lead technologies related with fuel efficiency and environmental technology by striving to provide more value for customers going beyond social responsibility.”

Eon Youl Shin Director of the Intellectual Property Development Group for Automotive Research & Development, Hyundai Motor Company

Patent Activity



Change from 2013
*Unique innovations may be represented in multiple subsectors.

Top 5 Companies

  • 1 Toyota 4338
  • 2 Hyundai 3214
  • 3 Denso 2383
  • 4 Honda 2120
  • 5 Nissan 1297
  • 1 Bosch 2912
  • 2 Daimler 1870
  • 3 Volkswagen 890
  • 4 Schaeffler Group 843
  • 5 Audi 833
  • 1 GM 1467
  • 2 Ford 1368
  • 3 Halla Visteon 436
  • 4 Caterpillar 416
  • 5 IBM 190

(Patent Data as of March 2015) Total number of documents by region