Google’s robotic vehicles can become “soft” to protect pedestrians in road accidents


The subsidiary structure Alphabet, the project of self-governing cars Waymo, has announced the receipt of a patent for the technology of variable rigidity of the vehicle body. This is designed to protect all people, inside and outside the car, during a collision with various objects on the road. If necessary, the car will instantly become very soft or, conversely, hard.

By default the robot car always tries to avoid an accident, but there is still the problem of thoughtless passers-by and inadequate drivers. If the system decides that a collision is inevitable, the robotic vehicle can try to adapt to the impact. Increase the rigidity of the body, so as a ball to bounce off a massive obstacle. Or become soft if there is a threat to knock down a person or animal.


The key elements of this dynamic protection are “tension devices”, which can be created from springs, tension-controlled cables, a telescopic tube frame, and so on. They are distributed around the entire outer perimeter of the car so that each node can react to the impact separately. For example, when a bicyclist jumps into the left side of the bumper, only she is preventively deformed, and not the whole part.

In Waymo, they describe the know-how: imagine that the robotic car body suddenly turns into a soft pillow. However, there are no reports or studies that would confirm that this will really save a person’s health or at least life. However, critics say that this idea is not so crazy as the past – the developers suggested to cover the body of the machine with glue, so that a pedestrian would stick to it and not fight against asphalt during an accident.

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