Google wants to stick airbags on the outside of its driverless car

G0ogle Driverless Car
Driverless cars, with all their on-board sensors and computer systems, should of course be considerably safer than today’s vehicles when they finally take to the road. Still, there may be occasions where accidents still happen, for example, if it’s too dangerous for a car to swerve away from the pedestrian and there’s too little distance to come to a complete stop.

In such scenarios, car could meet human at some speed, a coming together that in normal circumstances could result in a nasty injury for the unlucky person on the outside of the vehicle, or worse, death. Of course, Google, as part of its ambitious driverless car project, has spent time thinking about such possibilities, and has come up with the idea of putting an airbag on the outside of the vehicle. That’s right, we’re talking external airbags.

A patent for the design, which has just been granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, explains how the airbag would be concealed within a specially made bumper. Now, you may be thinking, “Yeah, but any guy slammed with a Google airbag is gonna get bounced right out of town straight into the nearest cemetery,” or something along those lines.

But the Mountain View company has thought of that, too. To minimize the chances of killing the pedestrian rather than saving their life, Google explains that its airbag would be made with a special visco-elastic material, akin to the memory foam in a mattress.

According to the patent, such material “does not immediately return to an original shape after impact thereby reducing spring back of the bumper on the pedestrian.” In other words, it should have a reasonable amount of give in it, reducing the chances of serious injury, though having said that, it’s easy to imagine the pedestrian still hitting the deck after bouncing over the hood and possibly the roof as well, albeit with legs intact.

Volvo

If the idea of an external airbag sounds familiar, that’s probably because in the dim and distant past you heard about Volvo working on a similar concept, though its design has the airbag inflating around the base of the windshield, the area where a pedestrian’s head could land in the event of an accident. However, there’s nothing in Volvo’s design to protect the pedestrian’s legs, suggesting the two companies would do well to collaborate on a more complete external airbag system.

Still, it seems like Google’s airbag is, at this stage, simply an idea, so we’ll just have to wait and see if it the company eventually decides to incorporate it as a safety feature of its self-driving car.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Mobile

Protect your new iPhone with one of our favorite iPhone XR cases

Apple's new iPhone range is the toast of 2018, with beautiful style and more power than you can shake a stick at. But beauty can often be fragile -- keep the damage to a minimum with the best iPhone XR cases.
Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
Cars

Did that car just wink at you? Daimler previews car-to-pedestrian signals

Eager to show off progress with autonomous cars and perhaps do some consumer softening as well, Daimler and Bosch previewed car-to-pedestrian communications. A sensor-loaded Mercedes S appears to wink to acknowledge a pedestrian's presence.
Cars

This freewheeling Army truck-turned-tiny home is a labor of love

Most tiny homes are models of efficiency but one British metal worker has redefined the idea, converting an old Army truck into a mobile tiny home that comes with a bed, a sofa, a shower, and a beer garden.
Cars

Take a friend stargazing at 202 mph in the 2019 McLaren 720S Spider

McLaren has introduced the 2019 720S Spider. As its name implies, it's a convertible variant of the 720S coupe. The company promises the Spider retains the coupe's dynamism and agility thanks in part to the widespread use of carbon fiber.
Cars

Gateway’s born-again Ford Bronco boasts classic style, 2018 muscle car power

Illinois-based Gateway Bronco has received a license from Ford to make brand-new examples of the first-generation Bronco. Every build starts with a Ford VIN and a donor vehicle, but Gateway upgrades every part of the car.
Cars

Bloodhound’s plan to build a 1,000-mph car has run out of gas

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has officially shut down. The upside is you can now buy a 135,000-horsepower car powered by a jet engine and a cluster of rockets for $319,000.
Cars

2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

The 2019 Ford Ranger marks Ford's long-awaited return to the midsize truck segment, which has seen a resurgence lately. But will being late to the party make Ford's job more difficult?
Cars

Pininfarina Battista is a 1,900-horsepower, 250-mph electric supercar

The Pininfarina Battista will be the first production car from famed Italian design firm Pininfarina. Named after company founder Battista Pininfarina, it has a claimed 1,900 horsepower and a $2.5 million price tag.
Cars

Tesla could show the electric pickup Elon Musk is dying to build in 2019

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself.
Cars

Allegro.ai is helping Hyundai mine the artificial intelligence gold rush

In November 2018, Hyundai invested in a startup named Allegro.ai. We talked to the company's founder to learn more about what that means for consumers in the not-too-distant futures.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.