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Google patents “sticky” layer to protect pedestrians

How will Google apply the sticky layer to its cars - like a spray? (Photo: Fotolia)

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The gluey coating may help passers-by to survive driverless car crashes.

How will self-driving cars interact with pedestrians? This remains a sticking point in the pursuit to bring automated tech to the masses. Apropos sticking: Google is aspiring to remove this roadblock in its own way.

The web titan has patented a new “sticky” technology to protect pedestrians in case – or when – they are accidentally hit by one of the firm’s self-driving cars.

According to a Guardian article, the adhesive coating would be applied to the outer shell at the front end of a vehicle to glue a struck individual to its hood. The feature could prevent crash victims from being hurled into other vehicles, onto the asphalt or into solid roadside objects. The goal? Keep them from sustaining potentially worse, or even fatal injuries – or, in a broader sense, substantially improve road safety

“Ideally, the adhesive coating on the front portion of the vehicle may be activated on contact and will be able to adhere to the pedestrian nearly instantaneously,” as the patent description reads. By promptly reacting to physical impact, the layer could constrain the movement of the pedestrian and carry him on the hood until the car’s driver or the vehicle itself applies the brakes. This way, both could “come to a more gradual stop than if the pedestrian bounces off the vehicle.” Google did not specify how exactly it would apply the coating to its cars.

The patent was granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on 17 May. As promising as the application appears, it is not certain if or when Google will implement it to their self-driving cars. Leading companies and institutions are working to smoothen the interaction between future cars and pedestrians. For example, Continental pits on artificial intelligence for driverless cars to proactively prevent incidents. The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) follows a similar approach with its efforts in machine learning.

Read the full Guardian article here.

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