I’m not sure if you’ve been keeping count at home, but the United States issued its ten millionth patent this morning. Tellingly, that patent was for a laser-based object detection and raging system that could be used in the development of self-driving vehicles. Also, the illustrations include a little picture of a truck.

The patent was issued to the Raytheon Company, and it’s for a COHERENT LADAR USING INTRA-PIXEL QUADRATURE DETECTION, just like your grandmother used to talk about. LADAR systems are interesting; they’re sort of like a the lidar systems that many autonomous vehicles are working with now, but are laser-based instead of just light-based.

While it appears the baseline system described here is stationary, the improved detection methods described in the patent should make real-time frequency-modulated LADAR possible, which would open its use for autonomous vehicles.

Here, this should clear everything up:


It’s worth comparing this ten millionth patent to the first one, which was issued in 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for “improvements in the making of pot ash and pearl ash.”

I still use the Hopkins method for making my own pearl ash today!


Here’s to ten million more, why not?