Technology advances related to the development of driverless cars have been the major driver behind technological innovation in 2014, an analysis of global patent applications revealed.
Toyota has become the overall winner in the number of patents filed across five sectors including propulsion, navigation, handling, safety and security, and entertainment.
Catching up with Toyota was South Korean car maker Hyundai, which demonstrated the highest increase in the number of new patents over the past five years.
Hyundai placed third overall after German engineering and electronics firm Robert Bosch. The top ten of the most patent prolific companies is clearly dominated by Asian and German firms with only one US company placing in the list.
Although research in telematics and driver assistance technologies has been responsible for a major portion of the patents filed in 2014, it was not the media darling Google and its driverless car research that actually dominated in the field.
In fact, Toyota, Hyundai and GM have all beaten Google in the number of patents.
"We see a lot of increasing activity in telematics and driver assistance systems as the supporting technologies for self-driving cars," said Bob Stembridge, an analyst with Thomson Reuters IP & Science and one of the authors of the report 'The State of Innovation in the Automotive Industry 2015'.
While Hyundai and GM were the leaders in telematics, Bosch, Daimler AG, Continental AG, Valeo SA and Volkswagen AG's Audi were the most prolific innovators in driver-assistance technologies.
"Hyundai has belatedly realised the importance of patents and has been keeping pace with rivals," said Jung Dong-joon, representative attorney of SU Intellectual Property.
"While Hyundai has increased the number of its patent filings, it is still a follower in terms of patent quality," he said, adding that Hyundai needs to secure more core patents.
Hyundai's patent filings more than doubled to 1,200 in 2013, from 500 in 2010, according to the Thomson Reuters report.
Hyundai ranked third in the number of patent lawsuits filed by the firms which specialise in suing others for infringement, just behind Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co, according to SU Intellectual Property, a Seoul-based IP firm.
The automotive sector saw the number of patent filings around the world grow by double-digits year-on-year over the past five years, the Thomson Reuters report said.