Google has patented a novel way to prevent pedestrian injuries, and time will tell whether this idea will stick.
Ever trying new things, the Internet giant and autonomous car pioneer has received a patent for a design that adheres an impacted pedestrian to the hood of self-driving cars, preventing the person from being thrown back onto the road in the event of a collision.
Even in the future world of self-driving cars equipped with sensors so they can avoid obstacles far better than human drivers, Google foresees the inevitable will happen: accidents involving pedestrians.
The published technology awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has illustrations showing the front bumper, hood and side panels of the car will be covered with a sticky coating.
“The front region of the vehicle may be coated with a specialized adhesive that adheres to a pedestrian, and thus holds the pedestrian on the vehicle in the unfortunate event that the front of the vehicle comes into contact with the pedestrian,” the patent says. “The adhesion of the pedestrian to the vehicle may prevent the pedestrian from bouncing off.”
According to the patent, “The adhesive layer may be a very sticky material and operate in a manner similar to flypaper, or double-sided duct tape.”
Of course driving around with a material like fly paper on the front of a car will catch a lot of bugs and debris. To prevent that, an outer egg shell-like coating that can be painted to match the rest of the body covers the adhesive.
“Upon impact with a pedestrian, the coating is broken exposing the adhesive layer,” reads the summary of the patent. “The adhesive bonds the pedestrian to the vehicle so that the pedestrian remains with the vehicle until it stops, and is not thrown from the vehicle, thereby preventing a secondary impact between the pedestrian and the road surface or other object.”
When it comes to removing the pedestrian stuck on the hood, the patent suggests an option to use is a “releasable adhesive” that would allow the person to be unstuck “after a period of time.”
The Google patent coincides with an increase of pedestrian traffic fatalities. Preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association indicates a 10 percent increase nationally last year from 4,884 deaths in 2014.
While a sticky hood may sound like a wacky idea, other automakers have addressed the pedestrian accident issue with less bizarre solutions. Some European Jaguars raise the hood of the car on impact to cushion the blow to victims, and Volvo’s V40 deploys a “pedestrian air bag” from along the bottom of windshield, where struck pedestrians often suffer head injuries.
Google acknowledges that other automakers are addressing the pedestrian safety issue, but the patent observes, “Existing technology found in production vehicles does little to mitigate the secondary impact a pedestrian may experience.”
Companies are awarded patents, sometimes hundreds in a year, but that doesn’t mean the product will be created.
It isn’t known at this time whether Google plans to install the technology on future self-driving cars or, would it even work.
A spokeswoman told the San Jose Mercury News, who first reported the story, that “we hold patents on a variety of ideas. Some of those ideas later mature into real products and services, some don’t.”