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Tuesday 27 September 2016
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Google Patents Sticky Hood to Adhere Pedestrians

Google Patents Sticky Hood to Adhere Pedestrians

Full disclosure here, a bicyclist hit my car several years ago in San Francisco and flew across the hood. She was fortunately okay, but it was a terrifying ordeal all around. But what if she hadn’t flown over the hood, but stuck to it instead. While that might be equally disturbing to see, it does sound a bit safer.

Google thinks so, too. Two of its engineers have come up with the idea to coat self-driving cars with an adhesive-like substance that would deploy in a collision and essentially glue people to cars so they’re not thrown to the ground or other elsewhere.

Google filed the technology two years ago, but it only recently came to light after being approved by the U.S. Patent Office.

The patent is designed to protect a pedestrian or cyclist from injury through the secondary impact of them bouncing off the front of the car and back onto the road. It describes the front of the car as being covered in an “eggshell-like” coating that would “crack” in the case of a collision, like how an air bag deploys upon impact. Underneath the cracked coating there would be an adhesive surface of some type. It would keep the person attached to the hood while the vehicle stopped.

“The adhesive layer may be a very sticky material and operate in a manner similar to flypaper, or double-sided duct tape,” the patent says.

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In its patent, Google acknowledged robot cars will hit pedestrians, until the technology gets to the point that the vehicles can “avoid all accidents.”

The two guys behind this idea are Google mechanical engineers Alex Khaykin and Dan Larner. Larner also has a patent pending on a car bumper bar with air sacs that inflate if the car hits a pedestrian.

So as much as everyone is talking about Google’s sticky hood idea, will we ever see this in action, say, on Google’s self-driving cars? Not necessarily. A Google spokesperson told the Mercury News the existence of the patent doesn’t mean it will emerge as a feature on the next generation of Google self-driving cars. 

But it sure is interesting to think about.

Image from Google patent number 9340178