With autonomous vehicle technology still in its early stages, there have been a few unfortunate accidents in which self-driving cars were at fault. Now, Google is taking precautions to reduce the chance of pedestrian injuries.
According to Gizmodo, the company was granted a patent this week for an adhesive hood. The invention would ideally catch pedestrians who have been struck, in order to prevent them from falling and being hit a second time by forward-moving vehicles.
The proposed adhesive will be "activated on contact and will be able to adhere to the pedestrian nearly instantaneously," the patent explains. The surface of the adhesive layer would be coated with an "eggshell-like" material that would protect the car from debris, and "break away in the event of a pedestrian impact."
The company filed the front hood adhesive patent in November 2014—two years after it was granted a patent for "transitioning a mixed-mode vehicle to autonomous mode"—arguing that pedestrian safety hasn't gotten the same level of attention as vehicle or passenger safety.
"Vehicle bumpers are generally designed to absorb energy to prevent injury to the vehicle during a collision, but generally do not provide significant protection for a pedestrian struck by the vehicle," the patent reads.
Google points out that existing technology—including Jaguar's modification that lifts the car hood to a certain degree on impact and the external airbags used on certain Volvo models in Europe—does not resolve the issue of secondary impact.
Still, the adhesive hood may not available for a while—if ever. "We hold patents on a variety of ideas," a Google spokesperson told The Mercury News. "Some of those ideas later mature into real products and services, some don't."
Images via U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.