Thursday, May 26, 2016

Google Patents "Pedestrian Flypaper" for its Self-Driving Cars

I know this sounds like a joke, but it's the Verge, a "progressive" website that's not known for its satire, not the Onion.  Google has patented an adhesive layer for self-driving cars, under the theory that if the car throws the pedestrian ahead or to the side, the pedestrian may be hurt worse than the secondary impact than just being hit by the car. 


They went to quite a bit of thought about this, recognizing that if you're
driving around with a coating on your car "similar to flypaper or double-sided duct tape" means you'd pick up dirt and bugs as well as pedestrians. So, Google envisions an exterior "eggshell" covering that goes on top of the adhesive layer. This would break instantaneously in the event of a crash, says the patent, "revealing the adhesive layer below, and bonding to the pedestrian."
They specify that this eggshell coating will need to fracture into many small pieces to get out of the way.
Preferably, the pieces 232 are of a relatively small size, such as less than an inch in diameter, on average. The smaller pieces 232 help to expose the adhesive layers 220 and 240 so that they come into contact with, and bond to, the pedestrian 270. As shown in FIG. 6B, the back 272 of pedestrian 270 contacts adhesive layer 220 and the pedestrian 270 is thereby adhered to the vehicle during the initial impact. 
As Dave Barry would say, "I'm not making this up".
While I guess Google is due some sort of Kudos for trying the reduce the danger to pedestrians from their cars, I really don't think they thought this problem through very well.  I'd hate to be the one on the pedestrian side in his design.  To begin with, yeah, a secondary impact is a bad thing, but the primary impact is no picnic either!  Think of Superman movies.  One of the problems with the movies is that Superman will save someone from hitting the ground, falling from a building at 100 mph, by swooping in and changing their direction to flying sideways at 100.  The acceleration change would change people into goo.  

In this case, the pedestrian is still getting hit by a car.  Now that they're stuck to the hood of the car, how do they get removed without causing more injury?  Assume the usual adult weight of 150 to 200 pounds.  The adhesive has to prevent that from sliding off, so it has to be strong.  How do paramedics rescue the person without ripping them apart pulling them off the car?  The words "remove" or "extract" don't show up in the patent (nor do lots of others I could think of for the getting the person off the car) so it doesn't appear Google thought of this at all.  Further, what if the pedestrian isn't hit in an overtaking accident like that, but a sideways hit (they're walking toward us, out of the page, in this illustration)?  Now they're knees are destroyed from the sideways hit and they're stuck to the car in a horribly painful position.    

And what if the person being hit obstructs the driver's vision and now the driver smacks into another car or other obstacle, sandwiching the body on the hood? 

There's really no good outcome for the person on the hood.  Google, put your effort into preventing that from ever happening. 


  1. It would probably eliminate hit-and-run least the "run" part.

    Then again, I wonder how many drug-addled teens would regard it as a useful tech aid to "hood surfing," or how many briefcases, grocery bags and purses would become hood ornaments.

  2. Trophies anyone? Stuff and mount. Google? Wow, what genius!

  3. There was a sorta-famous incident about 10-15 years ago, when someone coming home from an all night drunk ran into a group of cyclists out for their morning ride. One of the cyclists lodged in the car, through the windshield and stuck there. If I recall it all properly, the guy's wife came out to where the car was parked and saw the person stuck in the windshield - moving.

    I can just see cars like this with a couple of people and their bikes stuck to them.

  4. I can think of a LARGE number of people I would like to see stuck to such a car, especially if they obstruct the "vehicle's" vision - remember, this is for self-driving cars, so the driver don't need to see squat - and end up sandwiched between the hood of the car and a bridge abutment.

    And not ALL of them would come from DC. Some would be from Mountain View. And others from Menlo Park. And still others from Redmond. But DC would be a good start...

  5. I keep thinking of the European Vacation movie where Chevy Chase keeps hitting the British guy from Monty Pyton with his car.