Tag: patents

By on October 13, 2017

Ford storage bin patent, Image: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Cargo covers only hide so much. And at the end of the day, your SUV’s cargo area is merely a receptacle for refuse — you can’t tote the contents around outside the vehicle without a stolen shopping cart.

If a patent application filed by Ford Motor Company bears fruit, your cargo hold will have everything you need for tailgate parties, camping trips, and, just maybe, a long wait at the border. (Read More…)

By on October 12, 2017

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe LS - Image: Chevrolet

A standard part of the dealership test drive experience involves the salesperson grabbing the key to the car in question out of a lockbox, then accompanying the customer on the drive. A new patent filing suggests General Motors may be looking for a way to give customers access to the car without requiring a salesperson to dig through a box of keys.

GM appears to be working on a patent that would allow customers to have a temporary digital key granted to them in order to gain access to a vehicle they want to test drive.

The system would work like this: Interested customer applies for the key, the dealer verifies the buyer’s interest and identity, dealer approves the test drive and monitors it. If the customer doesn’t want to buy the car, the dealer can revoke the digital key authentication, and it can also do the same to a prior key holder if the vehicle is used and someone other than the first title holder buys it. (Read More…)

By on August 22, 2017

2018_toyota_tundra_trd_sport_01_8ee19ebe1c41ad354b59edf3a42fdf0bac4ded48

Back in the days of sky-high tailfins and wraparound windshields, A-pillars weren’t of sufficient thickness to hide little Timmy riding his bike, or maybe that Ford Fairlane approaching from behind that shrub to your left. No, front seat vision was grand — trying to stop your Detroit barge with unassisted drums brakes was the real challenge.

These days, the high-strength steel and airbags needed for rollover and side-impact protection have turned those slim pillars into Corinthian columns capable of hiding a small crowd. A-Pillars are bulky, and that’s a safety problem in itself.

What to do? In Toyota’s case, simply develop a way of seeing through them. (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2017

EcoBoost Mustang Burnout, Ford Motor Co.

If you believe certain segments of the media, we’ll soon be able to avoid the drudgery of turning a steering wheel, pressing and releasing pedals, and — gasp! — shifting gears.

The inevitable onset of self-driving vehicles, tech aficionados and urbanists tell us, will bring traffic fatalities down to zero, somehow remove all congestion from the road, and turn our lives into a never-ending sojourn of blissful tranquility. Never again will you take that aimless and unprogrammed late-night drive, just for the hell of it. Never again will you bother with buying and owning a car. Automakers will simply turn their driverless cars loose, emptying driveways while filling streets with hands-off ride-sharing pods.

Not so fast, says Ford’s newly minted CEO. (Read More…)

By on August 14, 2017

Waymo Google Self-Driving Car

Autonomous vehicles are being billed as a safer alternative to human-controlled transportation and, assuming the hardware functions as intended, that’s likely to be the case. But eventually a self-driving car is going to smack into a pedestrian and no company wants to hold the honor of being first.

Google’s autonomous vehicle arm, Waymo, is working on a solution to mitigate the liabilities associated with such an incident by patenting a softer car. (Read More…)

By on August 14, 2017

gearshift stick shift manual transmission (public domain)

In this day and age, when a “coupe” often means a four-door SUV and automatics, DCTs, and CVTs perform almost all gear-shifting duties, it’s nice to see a patent from a major mainstream automaker concerning a manual transmission.

However, Toyota’s recent patent for an electronic tranny nanny might spark worry that the three-pedal experience, as endangered as it is, could become watered down by technology. A manual transmission that doesn’t let you make mistakes? Who’s in charge here? (Read More…)

By on August 8, 2017

washer-patent-main

It’s no secret that vehicle owners are becoming more hands-off when it comes to vehicle maintenance and repair. Some of that blame can be attributed to the increasing complexity of modern cars, and automakers are using that to their advantage as they attempt to make cars even more hands-off. The tool roll and spare tire you’d find in older cars have been replaced with a can of fix-a-flat and a roadside assistance card.

Changes like the disappearance of the spare tire are the result of chasing fuel economy standards, though others — like increased use of plastic engine covers — seem like the automaker’s way of telling owners they’ll need to subscribe to a service plan instead of trying to turn a wrench on their own. A recently published patent shows someone at Ford had the idea to take this to next level — so owners will never have to open the hood at all.

(Read More…)

By on July 20, 2017

2018 Ford Mustang, Image: Ford

Ford’s German division has filed a patent for a new water injection system that could bring exponential improvements in efficiencies and high horsepower gains.

Truthfully, water injection isn’t a new technology, World War II fighter planes used vaporized water to improve low-speed thrust during take off, plus, an extra spurt of speed during dogfights. Post-war, both Saab and Oldsmobile offered vehicles with factory installed water injection systems before the technology enjoyed a renaissance in high-performance Group B rally cars during the 1980s.

Traditionally, water injection has been used as a shortcut to high performance, where a 50/50 water-alcohol mix is injected into the intake manifold where it’s used to lower combustion temperatures and cool the pistons and cylinder walls. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of detonation and allows for higher compression ratios, which can manifest as either higher performance metrics or a more efficient engine.

But where Ford’s design differs is its focus on injecting water directly into the combustion chamber instead of its traditional upstream location in the intake tract. (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2017

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Alphabet Inc.’s autonomous car division Waymo, formerly Google, abandoned three of four patent-infringement claims in its lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. in a surprise move on Friday.

Earlier, U.S. District Judge William Alsup specifically asked Waymo to narrow its more than 100 trade secrets claims to fewer than 10 if they ever wanted to place them in front of a jury. During a June 7th hearing, he also said, “I want to reiterate to the plaintiff here that you should think a lot about just dropping the patent part of this case.”

Waymo listened and dumped the majority of its patent claims to focus more heavily on the trade secret issues surrounding the 14,000 files stolen by ex-employee Anthony Levandowski — which is, perhaps, the only thing the two companies can agree upon. Uber is glad to see the focus shift back onto Levandowski, who has been at the core of the case since day one. Now it only has to prove it didn’t pay for access to the data instead of spending time differentiating its own designs from Waymo’s.  (Read More…)

By on May 1, 2017

2017 Honda Accord Sedan Engine Bay

The United States will look into components employed by some Japanese and German automakers to see if any vehicle models sold in the country violate patent laws. Probes will be conducted into 25 automakers and parts suppliers by the U.S. International Trade Commission, including Honda, Toyota, and BMW, as well as popular Japanese parts suppliers Aisin and Denso.

Intellectual Ventures II filed a complaint in March alleging thermoplastic parts used in motors, power steering units, water pumps, and other drivetrain components were being implemented in vehicles without its knowledge. It believes the companies are infringing on its patent rights and have reached out to the Trade Commission to conduct an investigation.  (Read More…)

By on April 3, 2017

judge alsup

Uber has become quite an adept punching bag for journalists over the last few months. However, its unsavory actions only helped to hang itself in the corner of every garage across America while wearing an Everlast logo. At this point, it might as well say something nasty about everyone’s mother.

It isn’t just the press giving the ride-hailing and autonomous tech company a hard time, though. The judge overseeing its court case with Waymo over stolen intellectual property isn’t taking any bullshit from either company, or the litigant’s lawyers, and had some incredibly harsh words to share from behind the bench before adjourning court for the rest of April.  (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2017

supreme-court

A Supreme Court ruling between two food companies may benefit the Detroit Three and its many domestic suppliers.

The case of TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands focused on where plaintiffs in an intellectual property or patent infringement dispute can file a lawsuit. Current U.S. law dictates that the plaintiff may file a patent infringement suit in any court district where the defendant does business. This has saturated the Eastern District of Texas with countless patent and I.P. lawsuits. Plaintiffs prefer the region because rural Texas juries are more likely to rule against big businesses and the district is known for expediting proceedings.

According to a January study by the Stanford Technology Law Review, only about 15 percent of cases heard in the court actually involved a patent invented within the district or had an accused party that had an office in the area. However, the Supreme Court is expected to put the kibosh on the practice by forcing plaintiffs to try cases near the defendant’s headquarters — meaning domestic automakers could have the home field advantage in future legal proceedings.  (Read More…)

By on February 25, 2017

opel-ampera-e-paris-626x382

Apparently, the tidy sale of General Motors’ European division to French automaker PSA Group isn’t so clean-cut after all.

According to German publication Der Spiegel, PSA is looking to secure more than just the Opel and Vauxhall brands. It also wants a key bit of gear — one that would make the new European alliance market leaders in electric vehicle technology.

GM isn’t willing to let it go without a host of conditions. (Read More…)

By on September 9, 2016

16 - 1986 Lincoln Town Car in Colorado Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Ford’s electronic keypad is a delightful throwback to the days when drivers would proudly unlock their new Town Car by punching in a code on the window sill, or just below the door handle.

However, a Ford patent published by Autoblog raises the possibility that the automaker might do away with the time-honored feature. (Read More…)

By on May 16, 2016

2017 Mercedes Benz C 63 S Cabriolet driving rear

Sales of scarves are poised to jump in Germany after a court ruled Mercedes-Benz can’t blow on its customer’s exposed necks.

A verdict from that country’s Federal Court of Justice just dug a temporary grave for the automaker’s “Airscarf” system, Carscoops reports, citing the German publication Automobilwoche.

The outcome of the automaker’s legal dispute with the company that holds the original 1996 patent means a “stop sale” order for models equipped with the warm air-blowing headrest. (Read More…)

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