Sounds interesting, is this a sticky fly trap for humans? Not exactly; but the concept is similar enough that you might call it a sticky human trap!
The technology used here appears to consist of a thin membrane that will expose the adhesive layer once contact with an object or pedestrian is established. This will allow the vehicle to slam the brakes and come to a complete stop as soon as possible without catapulting the contact object or pedestrian into (the most fatal case) oncoming traffic. According to the USPTO patent document by Google, The latest innovation is “A system for protecting a colliding object from a secondary impact, after an initial impact with a vehicle, including a vehicle having a front end, an adhesive layer positioned on the front end of the vehicle, a coating positioned over the adhesive layer, wherein, upon the initial impact between the colliding object and the vehicle, the coating is broken exposing the adhesive layer to adhere the colliding object to the adhesive layer during the initial impact.” It is suspected that Google will begin implementing this adhesive membrane as a prototype on its driverless cars.
While this adhesive front-end appears to solve a major “pedestrian vs. motorist” issue, there are a few worst-case scenarios that can be imagined which might convince the opposite bias. Here are two possibilities:
Scenario 1: Imagine an event where a human body misses the majority of the vehicle and an appendage is caught by the adhesive membrane. This may prevent the pedestrian catapulting effect but leaves the potential for serious appendage tearing resulting from ragdoll dragging of the pedestrian.
Scenario 2: If the bicycle of a cyclist were to contact the front-end of the vehicle and miss the person, what is to result for the bicycle rider? The catapult effect is still just as prevalent and may be even more dangerous now that the bicycle is being stripped from the rider at the time of impact.
Since these are just basic hypotheses and Google has not made a specific public announcement, it is perfectly fair to predict that such issues could be circumvented by Google’s incredible engineering team with time.
Google continuously demonstrates innovation in the Automotive technology category with special attention to human safety and convenience. This latest patent is a pleasant surprise and is a great example of Google’s persisting effort to make headway in more areas than its acclaimed search-engine, software and hardware.
To cater to those that prefer visuals, click the link below to view a brief YouTube video by GeoBeats News, “Google Awarded Patent For Glue-Covered, Pedestrian-Catching Car Hood”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xifpSxkqjJs
View the actual patent on the USPTO in full detail: Patent on USPTO.
A link to a brief pdf version is also available: Google Patent PDF.
Written by Roger A. Fleenor