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Human Flypaper for Pedestrian Collisions

Google has its hands full in developing a self-driving car, and that includes trying to mitigate the damage if a car hits a pedestrian. The company has filed a patent for a scheme to save such a pedestrian from further injury after being hit. It’s a sticky hood. See, a pedestrian can be hurt from the primary impact, when the car hits it, and then by a secondary impact, when the person is thrown onto the street. A sticky surface, “similar to flypaper, or double-sided duct tape," that grabs and holds the victim can prevent a secondary impact.

Stanford School of Law professor and autonomous car expert Bryant Walker Smith praised Google -- once he stopped laughing about the patent.

"The idea that cars should be safe for people other than the ones in them is the next generation of automotive safety," Smith said. "Manufacturers have gotten remarkably good at protecting the occupants of the vehicle, but there's been much less attention to protecting the people outside. I applaud anybody for thinking, as they should, about people outside of the vehicle."

It sounds like one of those crazy patents we often make fun of here, but this one has yet to be proven a failure. In fact, it just might save your life someday. -via EnGadget


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Often companies don't wait until an idea is well developed and ready for production. Sometimes patents are for throw away ideas they might come back to. Other times, some companies have quotas on patents. The people, working on the exact type of incremental improves you suggest they should, may not get enough district ideas suitable for a patent and throw out random ideas on the side (or just get bored). For various reasons, the ideas they are actually serious about might not show up in patents for some time.

Don't try too hard to decipher what a company thinks is practical and takes serious from patents, especially for companies large enough to have their own patent lawyers.
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The linked articles explain how the adhesive would be covered by a protective "eggshell" that disintegrates on impact. That sounds overly complicated to me, but it addresses your issue. It would also serve to nab a vandal!

Anyway, Google admits this is just an idea that may never be implemented, and the patent is to protect the profitability of the idea just in case.
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"Unfortunately, in all of our testing it turns out that the adhesive qualities are completely lost after only 30 minutes of driving, due to particulates in the air, bugs, and so on." ... says Someone, who took ten seconds to think about how this would work on a real moving vehicle in non-laboratory conditions.

It seems to me that it would be better to pad the front of the car with something that absorbs and redistributes the energy of the impact away from the pedestrian.

Or, keep working on the accuracy and distance of the sensors that can detect a pedestrian. the software that decides what to do when this occurs, and the braking system that brings the car to a stop, or at least allows the car to slow enough to drive around the pedestrian. This option is the best, in my opinion, because it's usefulness applies to everything the car is supposed to do while driving, not just the "what if a pedestrian is nearby" scenario, so it has far more overall return on investment.
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