The Impacts Of Driverless Vehicles On Intellectual Property Law

Industry analysts (in this case: lawyers) believe that there will be an influx of new intellectual property lawsuits in the automotive industry due to new technologies surrounding driverless vehicles. The reason is simple enough. Auto manufacturers aren’t the only ones trying to conceive and adapt these technologies. Ten years ago, that might have been the case. Now you have behemoths like Apple, Google, Microsoft (and basically every other tech giant) in on the game.

Although traditional car manufacturers don’t often sue one another over IP (because they’ve seen the can of worms that can open easily enough from what’s happened in big tech), the introduction of, well, big tech, into their arena could increase the burden on everyone. New legislation is very much needed to figure out what to do about IP relating to automated vehicles in and outside of traditional car manufacturers.

And where have driverless vehicles been tested the most? In that United States, that would be in sunny states like California and Nevada. Basically, wherever the weather cooperates on a nearly daily basis. Socal injury lawyers might have trouble attracting clients who’ve actually been injured if their strategies and the laws underlying them don’t change soon. Driverless vehicles will likely reduce the accident rate by an order of magnitude.

But the good news is that the flood of legislation is coming soon.

Even if lawmakers weren’t interested (they are), there has been an endless stream of new patents for underlying technologies for driverless vehicles. For now, there are plenty of issues relating to technology or IP that need to be sorted out first. These include:

  • A definitive answer to who is liable when an accident occurs due to collision avoidance technologies already on the market. You’ve already seen these technologies in the vehicles you rent or own: blind spot detection, lane control, automatic braking, etc.
  • Determining who controls intellectual properties like automatic parking, automotive engine control circuits, LIDAR, WiFi, etc.
  • Lawmakers should take note of how AI works to pair with machine learning without much human involvement. How will cybersecurity concerns be addressed? We’ve all seen those very imaginative movies by now…

The market for driverless vehicles will likely exceed $42 billion by the year 2025. That’s a hefty sum, and everyone wants their fair share of the pie. 

But there’s good news, too. Our predictions could be completely wrong! Many car manufacturers and tech companies acknowledge the benefits of collaboration to get their vehicles on the market sooner. They realize that the growth of this market will explode, and it’s more money in everyone’s pockets. And they technically don’t have any choice but to collaborate. Where can they find the bright minds capable of tackling the type of algorithms necessary to make this technology a reality? Silicon Valley. And who owns Silicon Valley? …Big tech. 

There have been several high-profile collaborations already, including Google’s agreement with Chrysler to help produce minivans or Ford’s investment in a San Francisco-based company called Pivotal to develop software. These types of arrangements will only become more common as time goes on.

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