Figure 3 Google China Patent Technology Time Evolution Chart
（ three） Focus on difficult technologies analysis
Based on investigating the milestones achieved by Google's driverless car project in recent years and the major technical problems encountered during the project research , , combined with the driverless car technology decomposition system and Google's publicly available patent information in China, the difficulties in the direction of Google's driverless car technology are summarized as follows.
Figure 4 Google Driverless Difficulty Technology Distribution Map
Among them, the detection of road information is the core problem of environment perception technology, the solution of the "where to go" problem is the core point of planning and decision technology, the control algorithm and the modification of vehicle peripheral control mechanism are the main problems of operation control technology, and the vehicle network communication is the research focus of network communication technology.
The technology development route for Google's driverless car is further analyzed based on the identification of the technical development difficulties.
Figure 5 Google driverless car technology development swim lane diagram
As can be seen from the swim lane diagram above, in terms of environmental sensing technology, for the core issue of road information detection, Google first disclosed a technical solution for vehicle panoramic camera for road information detection in China, and then proposed a technical solution for rotating LIDAR for road information detection in 2014, followed by a technical fusion of panoramic camera and radar utilized in a technical solution for pedestrian recognition requiring protection in 2016.
In terms of planning decision technology, Google initially disclosed a technical solution for path navigation using maps, then in 2012 proposed a technical solution for path navigation using a combination of cameras and maps, followed by a further request in 2015 to protect a technical solution for navigation guidance using a combination of maps and multiple sensors to automatically determine the start and end points.
In terms of operation control technology, in response to the control algorithm and control mechanism modification, Google first made public in China a technical solution capable of automatically controlling the car merging with the road, and in 2015 proposed a fully automated driving and fully automated control without technical solutions on top of that.
In terms of network communication technology, in response to the demand of self-driving vehicle network communication, Google firstly disclosed the technical solution of vehicle information cloud synchronization in China, and then proposed the technical solution of driverless vehicle using network history data for information recommendation in the direction of "Telematics" application in 2017.
Third, Google's four generations of driverless cars in China patent layout analysis
Google's driverless car has used four generations of prototypes so far. With the change of Google's driverless car R&D ideas in each stage, the focus of Google's patent layout in China will also be different, and the following is mainly based on the R&D characteristics of Google's four generations of prototypes to analyze the patent layout strategy of Google's driverless car in China.
(i) Features of the development of the Google IV prototype
Figure 6 Google's four-generation driverless prototype car
In 2009, Google officially launched its self-driving car project, using a driverless prototype car that was a Toyota Prius conversion. The first generation of Google's driverless car development was characterized by a "prominent map advantage", which was evident in the maps it came with .
In 2011, Google switched its test vehicle from a Toyota to a Lexus, and its research and development was characterized by a "focus on LIDAR," with Google claiming that the most competitive part of its self-driving technology was its own custom LIDAR, which was later at the heart of Google's lawsuit against Uber .
In 2014, Google developed its own driverless model, the PodCar Firefly, and used it as a third-generation driverless prototype, signaling a shift in Google's research and development strategy to "abandon assisted driving and go all in on fully autonomous vehicles. At this stage Google decided to abandon the development of assisted driving features that require human takeover and to devote all its R&D efforts to autonomous driving technologies that do not require human intervention .
In 2016, Google selected the fourth generation of the Pacifica driverless car for road testing, a generation of driverless cars characterized by "collaboration with traditional car companies to develop driverless technology." At this point Google abandoned the route of building its own car and instead partnered with Fiat Chrysler to develop a hybrid vehicle for driverless related technology development .
(ii) Patent layout of Google's four generations of prototype vehicles
1.The first generation focused on the layout of navigation map-related patents
Google's own high-precision maps with can assist driverless cars in positioning and navigation, and Google's technical solution for using its own high-precision maps for self-driving navigation has also been disclosed and licensed in China (CN201180057954.0), which addresses the specific problem that when a self-driving car encounters a special section of an overpass, the shape and height of the road, lane lines, intersections, speed limits, traffic signals, and other real-time traffic information is particularly complex, which poses a challenge for the self-driving vehicle. Google's disclosed technical solution is to access Google map information in one or more areas, use the sensors on board to identify such real-time traffic information, plan a route to the destination, and drive automatically along that route toward the destination, in addition to warning other passing vehicles by means of flashes and sounds.
2.The second generation focuses on the layout of rotating LIDAR-related patents
Google at this stage said that the most competitive part of its own autonomous driving technology is the self-developed custom LIDAR, this rotating LIDAR technology solution has been disclosed in China (CN201480054147.7), in which the LIDAR LIDAR needs to be able to sense things around it in 360 degrees of direction, so the problem brought is how to provide power, send or receive communication to the LIDAR LIDAR device during the rotating action, Google's disclosed technology solution is to use some non-contact electrical coupling, use the transformer formed between the non-contact electrical coupling and the LIDAR coil to provide power to the LIDAR in rotation, and use the capacitor formed between the non-contact electrical coupling and the LIDAR conductive ring to send or receive communication to the LIDAR in rotation.
3.Third generation steering layout fully automated driving related patents
Google in this stage of full development of fully automated driving car technology program has also been made public in China (CN201580023657.2), according to the final vision of Google driverless car, when passengers enter the car to fasten the seat belt, through the voice to say the destination, press the start button, the car will automatically carry passengers to the destination, when encountering special conditions need to emergency stop, passengers press the stop button can automatically stop, emergency stop button is equipped with a cover to prevent accidentally touching the emergency stop button, in addition, passengers can also voice control the vehicle to pull over.
4.The fourth generation focuses on the layout of vehicle networking-related patents
Google abandoned the route of building its own cars at this stage, opting to partner with traditional car companies for development. As the patent information has not yet been disclosed, the specific characteristics of the vehicle at this stage have not been fully disclosed, but it is speculated from some of Google's patent documents that have been disclosed in China that an important direction of Google's driverless car patent layout in China at this stage is "car networking" related technology, and its technical solutions related to the direction of car networking have also started to be disclosed in China (CN201710281924.7). The patent describes the method of using network historical data to recommend internal parameter settings for self-driving vehicles, and the self-driving car uses machine learning to adjust the car seat or ambient temperature inside the vehicle for a specific passenger.
To sum up, Google has a strong awareness of patent protection and its patent layout has the following characteristics: 1) simultaneous patent layout with R&D projects; 2) continuous patent layout around key technology breakthrough points; 3) providing product-specific protective layout with the continuous evolution of prototype vehicles.
Google driverless cars will be further automated and intelligent in the future, although the difficulty in getting the car to act like a human to identify and understand various driving conditions and ensure the safety of passengers is still at the level of artificial intelligence, which is one of the main reasons limiting the commercialization of Google driverless cars. We are now 2 years away from the commercialization of Google driverless cars in 2020, so let's wait and see if it will be safe to ride in a Google driverless car then.
Source: Concentrix IP
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