Google’s New Coating Catches Pedestrians

MONDAY, MAY 23, 2016

Pedestrians could be stuck to the hoods of cars as the result of a new coating technology developed by Google—and in this case, that’s a good thing, the company says.

The U.S. Patent Office granted a patent last week for a technology Google dubs “Adhesive Vehicle Front End for Mitigation of Secondary Pedestrian Impact.” The idea: to create a mechanism to reduce the risk of harm to pedestrians by self-driving cars.

The coating system involves an adhesive layer that would be applied to the vehicle’s front end. The adhesive layer is overlaid by a protective topcoat that covers the adhesive until an impact occurs.

How it Works

The patent application calls the topcoat an “eggshell-like material” that would protect the adhesive from picking up debris during normal operation; the topcoat would also provide the car’s aesthetic finish. But that coating would “instantaneously break away in the event of a pedestrian impact,” according to the patent materials, exposing the adhesive.

The pedestrian is then stuck to the car until it brakes, so that “both the vehicle and pedestrian may come to a more gradual stop than if the pedestrian bounces off the vehicle.”

Detail from Google patent

The pedestrian is stuck to the car until it brakes.

“By adhering the pedestrian that comes into contact with the front end, hood, and/or bumper, an example embodiment may prevent the pedestrian from bouncing forward off the front end, hood, and/or bumper, or being vaulted up and over the vehicle, thus helping to prevent injuries from a secondary impact with the road surface or other object that might otherwise occur,” the patent reads.

Given the nature of the coating, the pedestrian wouldn’t be stuck to the hood long-term: “It is also desirable to have the adhesive coating release after a short period of time to allow for the removal of the pedestrian from the vehicle,” Google notes in the patent.

Use in Autonomous Cars

While the technology could be used on any vehicle, the company—which has been a player in the race to develop viable self-driving car technology—makes a special note of autonomous vehicles in the application. It says that accident-avoidance technologies are in the works “that will have the ability to avoid all accidents.” But injury mitigation is a priority unless and until that day comes.

Google’s autonomous fleet began driving on public roads in 2009, and currently includes both modified Lexus SUVs and cars designed and built specifically for the self-driving project, according to the project website. Last December, Google announced it was joining up with Ford on self-driving prototypes.

The company is coy about the new coating technology’s potential application: “Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents,” Google told CNN Money in a statement.


Tagged categories: Adhesive; Asia Pacific; Automotive coatings; Coating Materials; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America

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