In Depth

Google patents sticky car to protect pedestrians

Flypaper-like solution would eliminate secondary impacts between pedestrians and the road

190516-wd-googlesticky.jpg

While Google is busy whittling away the miles to develop a self-driving car – with passenger safety as one of its core goals – it seems the tech giant has already started to think beyond the people who will sit in their vehicles, to those who may hazardously come into contact with them.  

A new patent has been revealed showing Google may be interested in developing a new and unconventional way of protecting pedestrians who may be struck by one of its cars in an accident – human flypaper. 

The patent sketches show a car with a front end covered in a strong adhesive layer that would bond pedestrians to the bonnet should an accident occur.

For the sake of maintenance, It would be protected underneath a special egg-shell like coating that breaks away in the event of a collision, "preventing bugs, leaves and avian deposits from becoming stuck to the car", says the Daily Telegraph.

It may seem odd, but Google thinks it has good reason to explore sticking people to its cars. 

"In the event of a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian, injury to the pedestrian is often caused not only by the initial impact of the vehicle and the pedestrian, but also by the ensuing secondary impact between the pedestrian and the road surface or other object," the company explains in the patent.

 The pedestrian would be carried on the front of the vehicle until the driver – or the car itself considering Google's self-driving ambitions – reacts to the impact and applies the brakes, before coming to a halt. A far more gradual stop for the person hit than bouncing off the front. 

Car companies already design their vehicles with extensive pedestrian safety measures in mind, such as external airbags and pedestrian crumple zones, but the tech giant says that none of these technologies come with secondary impacts in mind.

Gizmodo points out a secondary advantage of the adhesive layer – it could drastically cut down the number of hit and run accidents.

Being a patent, there's no evidence that it's an idea that Google will bring to life. A spokesperson told the San Jose Mercury News that "we hold patents on a variety of ideas. Some of those ideas later mature into real products and services, some don't".

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