Everyone has known that Apple has been working quietly with the intention of making a major push into the automotive industry with the release of an Apple Car, but I don’t remember anyone ever counting the number of patents to show just how many the company holds in the space.
According to research conducted by Nikkei and an analytics firm called Intellectual Property Landscape, Apple has applied for and published 248 patents related to the automotive industry.
The research indicated that 2017 was a peak year in terms of the number of patents applied for and approved, but that record may be broken. Akira Yamauchi, CEO of Intellectual Property Landscape, said that “if applications to be published in the future are included, the total for 2021 may be on par with the record set in 2017.”
What kinds of automotive patents does Apple hold?
The patents are wide-ranging and include some in the areas of self-driving and other software that powers vehicles. In addition, the patents cover a number of hardware elements including those in the area of comfort like seats and suspension.
The company also has patents in the area of car smarts or “vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology,” which allows vehicles to connect to the internet of things and to other vehicles. The report says that these particular patents potentially indicate “a major push by Apple to build its own platform and join a growing industry shift from just cars to overall mobility.”
Despite the company’s continued growth of auto-related patents, skepticism remains about whether Apple can deliver a car since the company has never built something as major as it. Hiroto Suzuki, a managing partner at consultancy Arthur D. Little Japan, said that “I wonder if [Apple] can ensure safety when it outsources the production of cars, which require more parts and higher levels of safety.”
Other analysts have said that we can expect the company to announce the Apple Car within the decade, so we still have plenty of time to wait. While we’re waiting, the company also appears to be pushing the next evolution of CarPlay and attempting to entice other automakers into adopting the platform.