Far Out Friday: Google’s sticky crash solution
Marvel Comics brought us the Human Fly. And now Google is bringing us human flypaper.
The tech giant is confident that its self-driving cars will dramatically reduce the number of injuries or deaths because of their ability not to crash into things.
However, as recent test-runs have shown, crashes do still happen, and now Google has a back-up plan.
It has just been awarded a patent that proposes placing a strong adhesive on the bonnet of its autonomous cars.
This way, pedestrians or cyclists who happen to find themselves being struck by a Googlemobile would be protected from what’s called ‘secondary impact’.
This is the part of a crash when a person is thrown back off the moving vehicle, usually hitting the roof of the car, the hard surface of the street, or even another car. It’s also the part that often causes the most serious injuries.
Gizmodo.com reports that the patent was filed back in 2014, and was designed as a temporary solution to keep humans around the self-driving cars as the technology developed.
“While such systems are being developed, it must be acknowledged that, on occasion, collisions between a vehicle and a pedestrian still occur,” the patent application read.
“Such safety mechanisms may become unnecessary as accident-avoidance technology is being further developed, but at present it is desirable to provide vehicles with pedestrian safety mechanisms.”
The Google glue (patent name could be Gluegle?) is described in the patent as having some kind of ‘eggshell’-like coating over the main adhesive layer so that the car doesn’t collect a giant insect graveyard on its front like actual flypaper.
And as much as it sounds far-fetched, the physics behind it is good, according to Rebecca Thompson, head of public outreach for the American Physical Society.
“Getting hit by a car once is much preferable to getting hit by a car and then the ground and then another car,” she said.
However, she pointed out there were both pros and cons with the idea.
Cons could include dragging the stuck person’s arms or legs under the car and inflicting new injuries, while pros included preventing a human driver from fleeing the scene and therefore cutting down on hit-and-runs.
If it proved to be a good idea, it could be a concept that could be applied to all potentially dangerous moving objects, according to Gabe Klein, former head of DC’s and Chicago’s departments of transportation.
Other carmakers have also turned their minds to mitigating pedestrian injuries in crashes, gizmodo.com reported.
Nissan has a ‘pop up engine hood’ which uses tiny explosives to slightly raise the bonnet of the vehicle once it senses an impact to help stop pedestrians from hitting their heads.
And another idea for Google could lie in vehicle to person technology, using their role with Android OS to get the world’s smartphones telling pedestrians when they are at risk of getting hit, said Dan Sturges, a transportation designer and adjunct professor at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.
While the sticky hood idea remains to be proven effective, Google said it was just another way that showed how they were thinking about helping its robots to keep more humans alive on our streets.