Google’s sticky car bonnet could save pedestrian lives

Google might have just made a huge breakthrough in road safety, and it’s by using a giant piece of flypaper. Yes, you read that right. Google’s patent aims to reduce pedestrian deaths by using a sticky bonnet. The patent was actually filed with Google’s self-driving cars in mind, but there’s no reason it can’t be used for normal cars, too. Although it sounds ridiculous, it makes a lot of sense because of the way accidents work.  

Google’s sticky car bonnet could save pedestrian lives

When someone is hit by a car, the accident can usually be split into two phases. The first phase is the initial impact between the car and the pedestrian, and while it can be fatal, it’s often not the worst part. Instead, it’s the second phase of the accident, or secondary impact, that does the damage. This part of the accident takes place when the pedestrian lands on the road, or is thrown into another solid object like a car or pavement – and it’s often the most catastrophic part of the interaction. google_car_bonnet_2

Google’s sticky hood works by preventing this secondary impact ever happening: after the pedestrian hits the vehicle the first time, they’re simply stuck to the bonnet like a fly to flypaper. The result? They’re probably injured and embarrassed, but they’ve avoided a significantly more dangerous incident.

As for the specifics of the patent? The bonnet wouldn’t be sticky all the time, as Google describes an egg-shell-like coating covering the adhesive. That way the car’s bonnet could be non-stick most of the time, and only reveal the adhesive in the event of an accident.

A Google rep has since told the Mercury News that the idea will probably never hit our roads, but it’s good to see technology companies – particularly those involved in self-driving tech – looking for solutions to pedestrian safety. However you look at it, the problem of pedestrian safety isn’t going away.

In 2014 in the UK, 446 pedestrians died in traffic accidents while a massive 5,063 were seriously injured. With or without autonomous cars, that figure isn’t acceptable, and whether it’s the human flypaper shown in the Google patent or something else, we need to do something.

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