Google patents sticky technology to protect pedestrians hit by self-driving cars

19 May 2016


Google has patented a new ''sticky'' technology that protects pedestrians struck by the company's self-driving cars.

The patent, which was granted on 17 May, is for a sticky adhesive layer on the front end of a vehicle, which would help reduce the damage caused to pedestrians if they were hit by a car and flung onto other vehicles or surfaces.

''Ideally, the adhesive coating on the front portion of the vehicle may be activated on contact and will be able to adhere to the pedestrian nearly instantaneously,'' the patent description said.

''This instantaneous or nearly-instantaneous action may help to constrain the movement of the pedestrian, who may be carried on the front end of the vehicle until the driver of the vehicle (or the vehicle itself in the case of an autonomous vehicle) reacts to the incident and applies the brakes.''

''As such,'' it continues, ''both the vehicle and pedestrian may come to a more gradual stop than if the pedestrian bounces off the vehicle.''

Though the patent says it applies specifically for self-driving cars, it notes that it could be used on any vehicle.

The patent was filed back in 2014 and had been apparently designed as a temporary solution to secure the safety of humans around self-driving cars safe as autonomous technology improved.

It may be noted though, that while such systems were being developed, on occasions, collisions between a vehicle and a pedestrian still occurred.

According to commentaors, such mechanisms might become unnecessary with the development of accident-avoidance, but at present it was desirable to provide vehicles with pedestrian safety mechanisms.

''Getting hit by a car once is much preferable to getting hit by a car and then the ground and then another car,'' said Rebecca Thompson, head of public outreach for the American Physical Society, reported.

''Cyclists wear helmets not as much to prevent their head's impact with the car as much as their head's impact with the ground when they fall.''

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