An autonomous car refers to a next-generation vehicle that combines the existing automotive technology focusing on machines with advanced electrical and electronic technology, telecommunication technology and function control technology. Autonomous vehicles can provide a high level of safety and convenience by gathering information in real time from inside and outside the vehicle. As autonomous cars are expected to be in commercial use by 2020, the competition to secure intellectual property rights regarding the key technologies involved is getting fierce.

The key technologies of autonomous cars include safety technologies, convenience technologies and selfdriving technologies. Safety technologies, which relate to mitigating injury to passengers in dangerous situations, encompass technologies on (i) follow-up control system and automotive steering and braking system; (ii) collision avoidance system and car-to-car distance monitoring system; (iii) speed limiting system and cruise control system; (iv) electronic stability control system; (v) drunk or drowsy driving prevention system; and (vi) anti-theft system. Research and development in these areas, in particular those relating to lane detection system and collision detection system, is thriving, and the numbers of patent applications filed relating to these technologies continue to rise. Patents for these technologies are classified as B60K (brakes), B60R (airbags) or F02 (control systems) under the International Patent Classification.

Convenience technologies relate to maximizing the convenience of the vehicle to ensure that amenities and space of the vehicle can reach the level of those of home and office. These technologies include vehicle network communication (ITS, telematics, or navigation), electric vehicle wireless charging, human machine interface, and mobile based technology (infotainment, nomadic device convergence services, or mobile office services). In particular, technologies relating to electric vehicle wireless charging or linked to smart devices are being actively developed, and patent applications are increasingly filed regarding such technologies.

Self-driving technologies relate to operating the vehicle by gathering information about traffic signals and obstacles in real time through on-board sensors, and adapting to the traffic situation using such information. While a relatively small number of companies have engaged in research and development of these technologies, such companies have not yet fully constructed their patent portfolio.

In addition, emotional technologies are also experiencing innovation in light of attention and investment. In particular, active research is being conducted regarding the head-up display technology (i.e., transparent display that presents data on windshields without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints) as new technologies (e.g., OLED-based head-up display) continue to develop.

As autonomous cars continue to attract growing interest and investment, innovation is being accelerated in a wide variety of areas related to vehicle automation technologies, including those involving electronic communication, software, ICT, materials and machinery. To take advantage of business opportunities brought by such innovation, companies doing business in these areas should be well prepared for the competition to secure intellectual property rights while spurring their research and development efforts.