Friday, May 27, 2016

Google patents “sticky” hood to catch … pedestrians?

The folks at Google are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to safety features on their autonomous vehicles. The California-based tech juggernaut was recently awarded a patent for an “adhesive vehicle front end” that the company says will “mitigate” secondary impacts for pedestrians.

If you think it sounds as if they’ve basically just turned the hood of a car into a human flypaper trap, well, that’s about the nut of it. According to the patent, once an object strikes the hood, it breaks a special coating that covers the adhesive layer. Once the coating is broken, the system will protect “a colliding object” from a secondary impact by causing the object to stick to the hood.

The idea seems to be that, it would be safer for the pedestrian to stick to the hood, rather than be tossed through the air and suffer a second violent collision with the ground, or a tree or a building, etc. And it could theoretically reduce the number of hit-and-runs, or at the very least make it easier to locate the offending party.

The company told The Mercury News that just because it filed the patent, that doesn’t necessarily mean the concept will be a standard feature on the next generation of its autonomous cars, however. And even though a flypaper hood might solve the problem of avoiding injuries caused when people are tossed violently through the air and onto the ground in a collision, it certainly creates all new problems. What happens if a person is stuck to the hood and the vehicle then crashes into another car, or any object? Is the person likely to be any safer than if they’d been tossed to the side?

Another thing they failed to consider, at least if these hoods are going to be used on cars outside of the most urban environments: What happens if I hit an animal? I mean, there are still vast swathes of this country that have open range in effect. Imagine clipping a sheep or somebody’s prized longhorn steer and having that for a hood ornament? Or how about deer, better known as everybody’s favorite on-highway animal menace?

Seems that implementing this “solution” could be a bit of a sticky wicket.