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Autonomous Vehicles: Artificial Intelligence And Intellectual Property Are Important Allies

by , | May 20, 2024 | Articles

THE TECHNOLOGY

Autonomous vehicles were designed with the purpose of minimizing accidents on urban roads and providing more safety and comfort, assisting or performing independently some tasks that are the driver’s responsibility.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has developed a classification of autonomous vehicles, creating six categories for autonomous driving. Level 0 refers to conventional cars without any type of technology of this type, while at the other extreme, at level 5 the driver becomes a passenger, needing only to activate the vehicle and indicate the destination. In such case, it is up to the vehicle control system to carry out in a fully autonomous way the driving of the vehicle throughout the route and to carry out any emergency decision-making. The intermediate levels of autonomous driving include systems already found on the market, such as parking assistant, emergency braking and lane change assistants, among others.

In general, to perform actions autonomously, a vehicle depends on various types of sensors that allow the reading of external parameters of the environment in which it travels (such as the presence of pedestrians, other vehicles, traffic signs and any obstacle that may arise on a road, for example) and the information collected by these sensors must be treated and processed to enable the sending of commands to electronic actuators subject to which the vehicle performs a certain action, such as emergency braking or making a detour.

To achieve higher levels of autonomous driving, it is essential to develop technologies with greater capacity to obtain and process data, starting from sensors and other hardware components that are more robust, agile and with lower manufacturing costs, as well as the development of more efficient software and control methods with lower error rates. The use of artificial intelligence and deep learning become important allies in this mission.

Deep learning consists of an artificial intelligence technology, which conducts information even faster and makes assertive decisions in a fraction of a second, constantly improving itself and making similar decisions, or those that are even more accurate and assertive, than a human driver would be able to. Therefore, with the advent of deep learning, it is expected that a vehicle will be able to visualize and interpret the real world and recognize obstacles early enough to make any kind of decision in driving the vehicle.

Because it is a new technology, another important ally in the development and expansion of autonomous vehicles in the market are the tools for the protection of intellectual property. As an example, patent owners receive the exclusive commercial exploitation right of the patented technology for a period of 20 years from the filing date of the patent application, being also allowed to sell or license the use of this technology to a third party if they so wish, or to prevent third parties from using said technology during the term of the patent.

GETTING AROUND THE BAN ON SOFTWARE PATENTS

In this context, regarding the protection of software in autonomous vehicles, it is important to note that the Brazilian Industrial Property Law (Law No. 9,279/1996) provides for a prohibition of the protection of “software per se” through patents. Specifically, according to Article 10, item V, a software is not considered an invention or utility model, per se. As per this understanding the source code of the software is understood as “software per se”, being an expression or method by means of a language that can be understood by a computer.

However, the method itself, represented by a sequence of logical steps that is capable of solving a certain technical problem, might be patentable and, in parallel, the referred source code can be protected as a computer program, based on the so-called “Brazilian Software Law” (Law No. 9.609/1998), which follows a legal regime related to copyright, and gives the author a period of 50 years of exclusivity for commercial exploitation of the protected computer program.

STAY AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION WITH IP

Statista published a DossierPlus on autonomous vehicles, indicating that annual production of self-driving cars is expected to reach 800,000 units worldwide between 2023 and 2030. The analysis indicates that autonomous vehicles are a trend of the near future and, therefore, those that hold intellectual property rights (and, consequently, exclusive rights of commercial exploitation) over the main technologies that enable access to this technology at accessible costs to the public or offer differentials of evolution to this market, are the ones that will have the greatest commercial advantage over the competitors.

Therefore, developers of technologies on the field of autonomous vehicles that use artificial intelligence and adopt assertive policies to protect intellectual property, such as patents for electronic components specially developed for this type of vehicle or for the methods of control of these components, or even for the protection of software for the source code embedded in these systems, will be able to reap the fruits of the investments committed to the development of this technology and, thus, will be able to stand out as market references in the conduct of the next technological trends of this segment, which still has a long and promising market trajectory.

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