What Self-Driving Carmakers Can Learn From the Smartphone Wars

Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor (F), hopes to re-imagine the Detroit carmaker as an information services company. The transformation involves the incorporation of existing semiconductor, mobile and other technologies into cars, which in turn will force companies to grapple with the legal challenges raised by the use of those technologies — ones covered by thousands of patents held by a broad array of entities. The rise of smartphones posed a similar problem, at the beginning of the decade, and its resolution was dramatic and expensive. Apple (AAPL) led a group of tech companies that paid $4.5 billion to Nortel Networks for 6,000 patents, in 2011, and a few months later Google responded by agreeing to buy Motorola Mobility for $13 billion.