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Google patents a ‘sticky’ car body that could save pedestrians in a collision

As tech and automotive companies strive to perfect their self-driving technology, we have to expect a few mishaps along the way. Google has suffered a number of bumps and scrapes with its own cars over the years, though the Mountain View company has usually pinned the blame on the human drivers of other vehicles rather than on its own kit.

But what if its technology catastrophically fails, or someone jumps out in front of the car too late for its sensors to initiate evasive action? Or perhaps the on-board safety driver could pull a wrong move that results in a collision with a pedestrian. Google has evidently been considering such scenarios, having this week secured a patent for an idea that would effectively turn the hood of its cars into human flypaper.

The idea is that if a pedestrian was unfortunate enough to find him or herself in the path of one of Google’s self-driving cars, they’d stick fast to the hood instead of bouncing off and hitting another object, likely suffering more injuries in the process.

But what if … ?

However, if the car is seriously out of control, we’re not sure that staying stuck to the hood would offer the best outcome if the vehicle is careering toward, say, a wall or a large body of water. In these kinds of situations, bouncing off the hood actually seems like a really good idea.

google adhesive hoodIn its filing, Google describes an adhesive layer across the car’s hood, bumper, and side panels. Of course, the stickiness wouldn’t be constantly exposed, after all, think of all the wildlife, leaves, and dirt you’d find attached following even a quick trip to the local store. Instead, it’d be fitted as a protective coating that would instantly break upon impact with the unfortunate human.

“The adhesive bonds the pedestrian to the vehicle until it stops, and is not thrown from the vehicle, thereby preventing a secondary impact between the pedestrian and  the road surface or other object.” But like we said, you know, walls, lakes, other cars …

It’s also worth considering how the pedestrian, if seriously injured, would receive medical treatment. Who knows, it might be easier to pull the hood off the car with the injured person still attached than pull the person off the hood, though getting the whole lot into an ambulance is likely to present additional challenges.

Related: Pedestrian Detection demo goes wrong, Volvo XC60 plows into a crowd of onlookers

The patent demonstrates how Google is looking into different ideas to reduce the possibility of injuries caused by faulty or inadequate driving technology, or erroneous actions taken by safety drivers. Of course, many tech and car firms, Google of course included, have long-been working on pedestrian-detection systems, though until these are perfected, a sticky car could conceivably come in useful on some occasions. If Google ever decides to further develop the idea, that is.