Google has filed a patent for a 'sticky' layer to protect pedestrians involved in accidents with self-driving cars, appearing to make a significant step forward in realising its ambition of putting driver-less cars on our roads. The patent was granted in the US on 17 May 2016 and is for an adhesive layer to be applied the front of a self-driving car with the aim of reducing the damage caused to a pedestrian and vehicle during a collision.
This is not the first device designed to protect pedestrians from vehicular impacts. Volvo have fitted external air bags to protect pedestrians and Jaguar Land Rover now have a system where the bonnet raises on impact to provide a buffer zone between a pedestrian and the engine block. However, this invention appears to be the first that takes steps to reduce the secondary impact suffered by a pedestrian, when hitting either the ground or objects such as another vehicle.
The idea behind the invention is that the adhesive coating on the front of the vehicle will be activated on impact and will then adhere to the pedestrian. It is intended that this adhesion will restrict the movement of the pedestrian and hold them to the front of the vehicle until the vehicle itself reacts to the collision and comes to a gradual stop.
Safety has been the main concern raised by the vast majority of industry observers when considering the possibility of driver-less cars. This development appears to demonstrate Google's commitment to driver-less technology, and indeed to addressing the associated safety concerns. The mere filing of the patent does not necessarily mean that Google will continue to invest, develop and ultimately deploy the technology. Google and its counterparts often file patents for inventions but subsequently decide to cease development on them. However, based on Google's outspoken commitment to the driver-less car it appears likely that this invention will see the light of day.
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