News and Updates

How many engineers does it take to invent a three-step method?

… apparently fifteen!

GM patent application publication 20170213165 addresses a legitimate problem facing ridesharing in autonomous vehicles: How does a rider know that she is getting into the right vehicle? GM is offering several solutions. For example, as a shared vehicle approaches pick up of a rider, the rider’s smartphone vibrates to indicate that the shared vehicle is approaching. The vibration increases or patterns (syncs) as the vehicle grows nearer. Or the vibration is coordinated/harmonized with color/light/sound from vehicle for confirmation to the rider that they are approaching the correct vehicle. In another alternative a visible display on an outside of the shared car shows a picture/icon/likeness and/or name or other identifier of the rider to be picked up.

The idea is summarized in the claim having three steps:

1. A method of operating a vehicle, the method comprising:
(1) selecting an identifier that is associated with a vehicle reservation for passenger service in the vehicle;
(2) initiating a pick-up portion of the vehicle reservation for making the vehicle available to a passenger; and
(3) displaying the identifier at the vehicle during the pick-up portion of the passenger service.

Interestingly, the patent lists 15 (!) inventors. Maybe they divided the problem into three teams of 5 engineers each? To be fair: Some inventors may have contributed to dependent claims. But it still presents a significant challenge to get inventorship right if you have this many inventors and amend claims during prosecution. At Smartpat we made it part of our issue-fee checklist that we send to clients, asking them to double-check if the listed inventors are still correct after we have an allowed set of claims.

An outlier? Not necessarily. In application 20170210352 GM claims a different three-step method:

1. A method of automatically maintaining a level of cleanliness a vehicle, comprising:
(1) receiving, by a processor, at least one sensor signal from a sensor that monitors for particulates within an interior of a vehicle;
(2) determining, by the processor, a level of uncleanliness of the vehicle based on the sensor signal; and
(3) selectively generating, by the processor, at least one of a control signal to a cleaning element of the vehicle and a notification message based on the determining to achieve the level of cleanliness.

And again, the application lists 15 inventors.