Google's driverless cars may use human flypaper in road accidents

Can sticky cars prevent fatal injuries to pedestrians?

Google has filed a patent for a "sticky" adhesive coating which would take pedestrians along with a car in the case of an accident.

The tech giant's autonomous car project, having been in development for a number of years, has been touted as a means of reducing the rate of human error and fatal accidents on the road.

Driverless cars and vehicles with smart technology use sensors, networking and intelligent mapping to keep a vehicle in the right lane, avoid obstacles and park correctly -- and it is hoped that one day little human input will be needed to get from A to B.

Despite these technological advancements, accidents still happen, as Google's autonomous car accident statistics show. Considering how many million miles that the prototypes have covered, rates are still low -- with only one collision the fault of Google -- but could a less technological solution reduce the rates of serious injuries further?

In a patent filing submitted by the Mountain View, CA-base firm and awarded by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a sticky, adhesive layer which coats the front of cars could protect pedestrians if they are hit by a moving vehicle.

As the patent designs below show, if the car strikes a pedestrian, the protective layer -- positioned on the hood, front bumper and side panels -- breaks apart, exposing a sticky material which acts like flypaper.

The person is then effectively glued to the front rather than being sent skywards or bouncing away which could cause even more extensive injuries.

The patent reads:

"In the event of a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian, injury to the pedestrian is often caused not only by the initial impact of the vehicle and the pedestrian, but also by the ensuing secondary impact between the pedestrian and the road surface or other object."
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"A similar technology featured on Volvo models deploys an airbag on the exterior of the vehicle at the base of the windshield meant to lessen the severity of the impact between the pedestrian's head and any portion of the vehicle," the patent continues. "However, [this] does little to mitigate the secondary impact a pedestrian may experience."

You have to wonder what would happen in scenarios in which the car is heading into another obstacle, such as a wall or another car -- and the pedestrian cannot escape -- but the idea is still an interesting one to explore.

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