Google’s self-driving car project Waymo patents ‘cushion’ tech that softens when it detects pedestrians



Clever driverless car technology changes shape so it’ll do less damage to pedestrians or cyclists in a crash

DRIVERLESS cars could get shape-shifting “cushion” technology that softens when it detects pedestrians or cyclists.

In the future, autonomous cars shouldn’t crash into each other but there’s still a danger for others on the road who aren’t hooked up to the robot car network.


Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans are being used for testing by Waymo

And Google’s self-driving Waymo project looks to fix that with a patent for an adjustable car surface on the bonnet, bumper or A-pillars.

Remember Batman’s cape that stiffened into a glider during the Dark Knight? It’s essentially a reverse of that.

The patent – filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office – reveals how “tension members” would allow the rigidity of the bodywork to be altered.

Cables, rods or springs under the car’s surface would tighten or slacken depending on what the computer scanners sense in front of it before a crash.

If a walker or a cyclist was in danger, the tech would soften for a lighter impact while remaining firm for a car-on-car accident.

The patent said: “It is desirable to design a vehicle that can reduce the force of impact experienced during a collision.”


United States Patent and Trademark Office

Patent shows cables under cars surface altering tension to shift surface shape

There’s no prototype built yet or tests carried out but the sketches show the cushion tech on one of Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans.

It’s not the first wacky idea to come out of the Waymo project.

GIVE US A STEER When will driverless cars come to Britain, how do self-driving vehicles work and are they safe?

The company previously designed a “human flypaper” that would stick pedestrians to the bonnet in the event of a crash rather than toss them across the street.

Other manufacturers have already trialled a variety of methods to better protect pedestrians, too.

Jaguar has a pop-up bonnet to provide a softer crumple zone while Volvo deploys airbags on the outside of the car.


United States Patent and Trademark Office

There’s no prototype yet but patent shows design on Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica


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