Ford files a record number of patents in 2015

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Workers at Ford Motor Co. applied for a record number of patents for the automaker this year as it continues to expand its mobility and autonomous car research.

Ford employees submitted nearly 6,000 patents in 2015, the automaker said Tuesday. That’s an increase of 36 percent from 2014.

Most of the new patents are related to Ford’s Smart Mobility plan for how it will develop driverless cars, car-sharing platforms and other mobility options.

“Our engineers and scientists are inventing ways to address mobility challenges more than ever — with more patent applications filed this year on car-sharing, wearables, bikes, cloud computing and in other areas to improve consumers’ lives inside and outside the car,” Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president and chief technical officer, said. “By hosting — and participating in — more internal hackathons and innovation labs, our employees are stepping up to show that inventing is a priority for leadership in the industry.”

Among the patents is a filing for a new bike system that can detect bike lanes and alert cyclists of path deviations. Another would suggest a safe vehicle speed based on infrastructure, average vehicle speed and GPS data. A new front brake light technology would improve vehicle-to-vehicle and autonomous driving-to-pedestrian communication.

Earlier this year, Ford licensed its robotic testing, which it’s used since 2012 on tough durability tests, to other automakers.

“The commitment Ford has made to innovation is commendable,” said James Malackowski, chairman and CEO of Ocean Tomo, an intellectual property firm. “The strength of Ford’s patent portfolio has resulted in the company being named a constituent to the Ocean Tomo 300 Patent Index for five years.” Ocean Tomo annually releases its 300 Patent Index, which is based on the value of a company’s intellectual property.

Ford has filed an especially high number of electrified vehicle patents. Ford has increased filing of electrification patents nearly 200 percent in the past five years, including 400 filed in 2014.

In May, Ford said it was opening its electric vehicle patents to other automakers for a price, to help accelerate the development of those types of cars. At the time, Ford said it had more than 650 electrified vehicle patents and about 1,000 pending patent applications on electrified vehicle technologies.

Last June, Tesla CEO Elon Musk opened his automaker’s patents to help expand the adoption of electric vehicles. Tesla’s patents are free to access.

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