Google granted patent for ‘sticky’ car to catch collision victims
Thu 19 May 2016
Google has been granted a patent for a ‘sticky’ car coating for use with its driverless vehicles. The adhesive coating is intended to protect pedestrians in the event that they are struck by a driverless vehicle in a traffic accident by acting as human flypaper.
The patent calls for an adhesive layer to be placed over the entire front end of the vehicle, including the hood, front bumper, and front side panels. The adhesive layer is then covered with another layer of coating.
This coating will prevent the adhesive layer from constant exposure, as unintended objects could be permanently affixed to the car, such as leaves, detritus, or actual flies. The outer coating, however, will be brittle enough that in the event of impact it will break, exposing the adhesive layer, and causing the pedestrian to stick to the car until it has time to stop.
The adhesion proposed by Google would prevent ‘secondary impact’. Many severe injuries, when a person is hit by a car, may be caused not from the initial impact with the vehicle but from secondary impact – when the person is thrown from the car and hits another object – another vehicle, or the road. The sticky coating patented for Google autonomous vehicles would protect a struck pedestrian by making them stick to the car until it has time to stop, thus helping to prevent secondary impact injuries.
When the vehicle strikes an object, or pedestrian, the outer coat should break instantly, and the adhesive layer activated on contact. The patent application states:
“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 both the vehicle and pedestrian may come to a more gradual stop than if the pedestrian bounces off the vehicle.”
The patent application compares the sticky car to existing pedestrian safety systems used in other cars, such as Jaguar’s deployable hood, or Volvo’s exterior air-bags. One of the appeals of driverless vehicles is the promise of reducing traffic accidents. While a study from October 2015 showed driverless test vehicles were in a higher number of crashes, they also found that the majority were minor, occurring at speeds of 5 mph or less, and that in none of the crashes was the driverless vehicle determined to be at fault. However, prevention of secondary impact even at slow speeds could help to minimize pedestrian injury in the event of an accident.