Google’s Waymo self-driving car offshoot has patented a system that softens the exterior of a vehicle in the event of a collision with a pedestrian.
The patent application is for a design in which the exterior of a vehicle is made up of a large number of “tension members,” which could be cables, springs or components of that sort. The members would tighten and loosen to adjust the “external rigidity” of the car. Sensors would detect any potential collisions and adjust the slack accordingly, making the body softer if the car were to hit a pedestrian and tighter if it were to crash into another car.
“For example, if it is determined that a bicyclist is about to strike the hood and front bumper of the vehicle, the tension may be reduced for the tension members associated with the hood and front bumper, so as to reduce the rigidity of those surfaces,” the patent says.
This patent is only a basic sketch that has yet to be implemented in the real world. Many patents we come across are for fairly run-of-the-mill things that are relatively easy to implement, but such isn’t the case with this self-softening car. There are many factors that could play into its overall effectiveness and it’s not clear if it would properly protect occupants of the car in the event of a collision. It’s good to know, however, that Waymo is researching ways to keep pedestrians safe in the self-driving car filled world it envisions.