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PHOTO CAPTION: Boeing 787 Dreamliner has some 8 million lines of code. The Volt, 10 million.

Electric Car's Computer Code Becoming Very Valuable Asset

The Chevy Volt has more lines of computer code, according to IBM, than the Boeing Dreamliner.

Published: 24-Jan-2011

BATTLES over the ownership of innovations and product designs have raged in the auto industry since the first horseless carriages sputtered out of inventors’ garages. In 1911, Henry Ford won a highly publicized eight-year court battle with George Selden, who tried to patent the automobile even though he had never sold one.

Subsequent disputes have kept lawyers busy for a century. While the court actions once related mostly to hardware — a new wrinkle in carburetors or a better method to stamp fenders, perhaps — the advent of electrified vehicles is changing the game. Valuable trade secrets now lie in the electronic controls that regulate the operation of motors, generators and batteries, in that shifting territory known as intellectual property.

That shift in the qualities that define a competitive advantage for hybrid and electric vehicles was underscored last week by the firing of three top Renault executives amid accusations that they had passed information to a “an organized international network.”

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