Google Has Patented Pedestrian Flypaper for Its Self-Driving Cars
"When our car hits you, you stay hit." -Google 
You may have seen the above, fairly comical image floating around the Internet recently, but I assure you: It is both more and less humorous than it seems. It’s from a Google patent filing for an adhesive front end for Google’s self-driving cars, so not only is that crash test dummy in a silly-looking position, but it’s stuck there like a cartoon.
OK, yes, in real life, getting hit by a car is no laughing matter, but that’s exactly why Google has patented this technology. Car collisions with pedestrians typically involved two impacts—one with the car, and then one with the road or another vehicle that’s likely to be at least as painful as the first. Self-driving cars will inevitably collide with pedestrians at some point, and this car adhesive would theoretically cut the number of impacts those pedestrians suffer by 50%, as the patent states:
The front region of the vehicle may be coated with a specialized adhesive that adheres to a pedestrian, and thus holds the pedestrian on the vehicle in the unfortunate event that the front of the vehicle comes into contact with the pedestrian. The adhesion of the pedestrian to the vehicle may prevent the pedestrian from bouncing off.
It could also help avoid hit and run incidents, as it’s a bit hard to get away from someone who’s just become your new hood ornament. Just because they filed the patent doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll all be prisoners of the hoods of Google cars, though. A Google spokeswoman told Mercury News, “We hold patents on a variety of ideas. Some of those ideas later mature into real products and services, some don’t.”
There are also concerns raised by the “flypaper,” just like with any other car safety apparatus. If a pedestrian gets stuck to a car, and that car then collides with something else, for instance, that’s much worse than if they had been thrown clear after the initial impact. To be honest, I’m less worried about that than I am about people using it to do their best Spider-Man impression on the hood of a moving vehicle. You can idiot-proof cars all you want, Google, but never underestimate the tools you provide to especially creative idiots.
(via Engaget, image via Google/USPTO)
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