Road Safety News
 

Google patents new 'sticky bonnet' safety feature

Friday 20th May 2016

Google has patented a new ‘sticky’ technology designed to protect pedestrians if they are involved in a collision with a driverless car.

The technology, a sticky adhesive coating that would be applied to the bonnets of vehicles, is designed to minimise the secondary impact of a collision.  

The idea is for the adhesive to activate on contact and stick to a pedestrian ‘nearly instantaneously’. Instead of immediately bouncing off the vehicle, the pedestrian would be carried forward until the brakes are applied.

That, the patent description says, could result in the pedestrian coming to a more gradual halt and reduce the chance of injury from secondary contact with the road or even another vehicle.

The patent also says that although specifically designed for self-driving vehicles, the safety feature could be used on any vehicle.

The patent reads: “There are continued efforts to improve vehicle safety, including the development of autonomous vehicle equipped with accident-avoidance systems.

“However, while such systems are still being developed, it must be acknowledged that, on occasion, collisions between a vehicle and pedestrian sill occur. Therefore, it is desirable to provide safety mechanisms that reduce or prevent injury.

“The use of an adhesive coating on the vehicle may further help to prevent or reduce the possibility of a ‘tertiary’ impact in which a pedestrian who has already been involved in a vehicle collision and been vaulted a certain distance and impacted the roadway, once more collides with a nearby vehicle travelling in the same vicinity.

“By adhering the pedestrian to the front of the vehicle, such a tertiary impact, which could lead to severe injury or even death, may be avoided, thus providing for additional pedestrian safety.”

Photo: Alan via Flickr: use under creative commons act.

Comments

Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

Nick: This is in the archives now, so you may not get to read it, however I've found the clip you mentioned. The schoolboy runs and vaults the guardrail and hits the side of the bus - it's not a pedestrian stepping out into the path of a bus and being hit by the front of it as we were discussing. Having said that, I thought the driver was going too fast at that location anyway, considering there were several pedestrians on the narrow footway, already posing a threat. He could have created a safety margin for himself and been scanning the footway for movement, notwithstanding the guard rail.
Hugh Jones

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)
0

Yes I know pedestrians do daft things Nick and risk their own lives by their actions and are the initial trigger for their own downfall, but as I've said before, they're not invisible and they're relatively slow moving so to me anyway, it's inconceivable that an alert motorist can't avoid them.
"He came out of nowhere!" or "I just didn't see him!" is not really an acceptable excuse for me. I will look for the video clip you mentioned however as I'm sure this subject will come up again.
Hugh Jones

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)
0

Hugh, have you seen the video of a "pedestrian" gate vaulting a pedestrian guardrail and hitting a bus. Unfortunately I do not have the link to it or the time to search until my holiday next week but if you saw it I would be interested to hear how the bus driver could have avoided it.
Not all are the fault of the pedestrians and not all are the fault of the drivers. Bit of both going on?
Nick, Lancashire

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)
0

How to remove casualty from bumper? Easy, scissors. The pedestrian needs new clothes, the driver a new bonnet (or coating).

From a purely clinical point of view (speaking to paramedic girlfriend) this is a nominally good idea as it at least halves the number of impacts the pedestrian likely receives - car then floor. We have all seen videos of pedestrians thrown 40ft after a collision, the ending of that 40ft flight is just as bad as the initial impact.

This does however create another potential impact. Cars today have very short bonnets and long windscreens, both well angled for head & shoulder impacts with the screen, now often a structural feature of cars.
steve, watford

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)
0

Fair enough Nick but it's a pity you are not going to give it more thought. My observations are based on 40 years driving and reading countless pedestrian accident reports. Also, there are many You Tube clips of such collisions which should illustrate what I'm getting at - it's possible to watch them and conclude what the driver didn't do - and what they could have done - to avoid them - regulating their speed is usually top of the list and not having tunnel vision.
Hugh Jones

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)
+2

I think am going to give up on this one Hugh. I have read the reports/statements and have based my observations on the contents of them.

Thank you for pointing out that brakes are an important aspect of collision avoidance however "they" have not yet produced one in the real world which can stop a car instantaneously. Or indeed a human with zero thinking time then the ability to activate the braking system also instantaneously. That would be a very quick transfer of kinetic energy into other energy forms for the vehicle to stop.

Absolutely speechless and have no more to say in response.
Nick, Lancashire

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)
+3

As I said Nick, it's down to alertnesss, concentration, observation, anticipation, driving technique and fairly obviously perhaps, very efficient brakes! In the incidents you referred to, one, or some, or all of these elements will have been missing.
Hugh Jones

Agree (0) | Disagree (2)
-2

Hugh, Unfortunately I haven't got time to list the witness statements and coroners reports which I have read or attended that would refute your belief in the magical ability of drivers to avoid pedestrians which unexpectedly enter the carriageway. Shared responsibility must come into play surely? Drivers should take all precautions to avoid things in their way and pedestrians should take responsibility for how and when they enter the carriageway. Are you proposing barriers to enforce segregation on higher speed roads and unfeasibly slow speeds in "built-up" areas? I do not expect to be alive when the last pedestrian injury occurs.
Nick, Lancashire

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)
+2

Whilst driverless cars may potentially be able to cause fewer collsions than humans by removing the reckless/incautious/rule-breakimg element, my concern is: can they anticipate and avoid the mistakes of other road users as the alert, thinking driver can do now?

This highlights the shortcoming of driverless cars in that, as far as I know, they will not be able to 'think' or analyse a possible collision scenario to be able to anticipate for instance, a pedestrian stepping out in front of it. If passing a row of parked cars for instance, could it expect, as we could, a car door to be suddenly opened in its path, or a child suddenly emerging from between parked vehicles?

In answer to Nick's query, the reason pedestrians are hit by vehicles now is simply that not all drivers are alert to the presence of pedestrians, do not anticipate their movements and therefore do not regulate their speed accordingly - typically they're also not paying enough attention to what may happen ahead of them. Pedestrians are not invisible and normally enter the c/way from the side - where they can be seen in advance - and usually not at a speed greater thn the approaching vehicle! As far as I am concerned, they should always be avoidable.
Hugh Jones

Agree (0) | Disagree (2)
-2

Hugh - you haven't addressed the laws of physics part. If a pedestrian steps out in front of a car - whether autonomous or not - within its stopping distance and it is not safe for the car/driver to turn away from the pedestrian how can the collision be avoided?

There are many examples of children running out from behind cars/walls/trees etc into the paths of cars and being hit. I expect fewer collisions with technology assisting or taking over full control but some will occur.

It may in your opinion be easy to avoid colliding with a pedestrian but why then are there so many?

PS I'm pretty sure I have seen reference to software that can predict the likely future of pedestrians and it may even be something which exists in Sweden on some "local" vehicles? Anyone able to confirm/deny?
Nick, Lanacshire

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)
+1

I was being quite serious Nick. Of all the types of everyday collisions, pedestrian collisions are the easiest to avoid by a (human) driver and if the manufacturers of driverless cars are not confident that they can match this, then they still have a long way to go and my confidence in their technology has taken a dive. I think it comes down to whether a driverless car can anticipate something happening, rather than only react when it's sesnors tell it to - possibly when it's too late. I accept that this is also a shortcoming of some human driver as well, but I expected driverless car developers to have addressed this.
Hugh Jones

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)
0

Hugh,
You may of course be being slightly mischievous with your post when you suggest that by developing a safety feature to mitigate the potential injuries in a collision involving a pedestrian then that means we should lose confidence in the technology developers?

I think it means it supports my understanding that pedestrians appear to be able to enter the carriageway at any time due to being distracted by technology or just the in built human ability to self destruct by not taking sufficient care when moving around the highway. No braking system has yet overcome the laws of physics and if a pedestrian enters the path of the vehicle within its stopping distance and avoiding action is not possible due to the presence of other vehicles or pedestrians then I'm afraid there will be a collision with the pedestrian.

Personally I think there will be fewer collisions with the addition of vehicle technology (either autonomous or assistive) but whilst pedestrians remain autonomous then I believe there will still be collisions between pedestrians and vehicles.

As an after thought why not use Velcro suits for pedestrians and Velcro covered vehicles? No doubt there would be endless arguments about whether the hooks should be on the cars and the loops on the pedestrians........
Nick, Lancashire

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)
+4

I mentioned this to my wife and she said that's ok but what happens if the car goes into a full on roll over, maybe several times. Or careers into a pillar, lamp post or other hard objects such as a wall or other vehicle. Poor casualty attached to bonnet not yet unconscious watches while his end is in sight. No thank you.
R.Craven Blackpool

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)
+5

2016 is the 75th anniversary since the great Henry Ford launched the soya bean based plastic car body panel. Having spend vast sums of money on it, I wonder what happened to that idea from Mr Ford and whether this new development from Google will be ranked alongside it?
Pat, Wales

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)
+5

How will the sticky bonnet know the difference between a person, insects and stones flicked up from the road? Piercing or otherwise damaging the coating will require specialist repair or replacement. Cleaning insects from the coating will probably degrade it and cause it to lose its shine unless specialist chemicals were used. Seems a recipe for higher whole-life cost of ownership of such a car, which would not be attractive to most buyers.
Pat, Wales

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)
+7

Doesn't inspire confidence in driverless cars, or their manufacturers does it? With their sensors, radar, video, sophisticated programing, instant braking ability etc. I'd assumed pedestrian collsions at least, were going to be a thing of the past with a driverless car.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (3)
+1

BONNET MASCOTS
This may reduce the incidents of failing to stop! Anyone partial to pheasant may see this as a way to stock the larder.

In the UK there is no system for central collation of road traffic accidents involving deer or other wildlife, and firm statistics on the scale of the problem in this country remain unavailable. However, a pilot survey commissioned by the Highways Agency in 1997 based on retrospective data estimated that the number of deer killed annually in traffic collisions in the UK was already between 30,000 and 40,000. A fuller study commenced in 2003, again with lead funding from the HA, based on sample data collected annually from a range of organisations and individuals; this reaffirms that the annual number of deer killed on injured on UK roads is likely to exceeds 40,000 and may well be nearer 74,000.

Seriously, they admit that collisions will occur and are looking at all sorts of possible solutions to reduce severity of injury. Good for them for considering all possibilities however strange they may first appear.
Peter City of Westminster

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)
+2

A quick look at the patent application via your link shows this to be quite an interesting development. There is no mention of how a badly-injured pedestrian is going to be peeled off the car by Paramedics, but one step at a time as they say.
David, Suffolk

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)
+4