Google patents safety system that glues pedestrians to cars

Google has received a patent for a safety system which glues pedestrians to the front of a car after an accident, to avoid further injury from being thrown onto the road(Credit: Google/US Patent and Trademark Office)

Google's autonomous cars have been out and about for years, and so far their track record for safety is looking pretty good. But even for the best robot drivers, accidents do happen, so Google has patented a creative safety feature: an adhesive front end that glues pedestrians to the car in the event of an accident to prevent them bouncing off and further hurting themselves.

The system (which we really hope is called "Gloogle") takes the opposite approach to pedestrian airbags by using an adhesive layer installed into the hood and front side panels of the self-driving cars. This sticky layer would be protected by a thin coating designed to break open on impact. In the unfortunate event that the car collides with a pedestrian, the force cracks the coating, exposes the adhesive and holds the person firmly onto the front of the car, avoiding the secondary impact they could suffer by being thrown onto the road or into another object.

It sounds like an interesting idea, but there are still a few questions left unanswered. What the adhesive itself is made of still seems to be up in the air, with Google canvassing the use of quick-acting, contact, pressure-sensitive and viscous adhesives in the system, as well as the all-important step of ensuring it's a "releasable adhesive so that the colliding object may be decoupled from the adhesive layer after a period of time." When that colliding object happens to be your face, you're going to want it back.

Another point to ponder is if this system would actually prove to be safer than its absence in all situations. If a car hits a pedestrian and then falls off a bridge, for example, there's a definite downside to being glued to the hood.

Of course like many patents, the technology might never materialize, and the patent application acknowledges that even if it does find its way onto the company's autonomous cars, it may only be a stop-gap: "Such safety mechanisms may become unnecessary as accident-avoidance technology is being further developed."

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