Waymo, the offshoot from Google which focuses on self-driving technology, has patented a system which allows cars to change their rigidity in order to protect pedestrians in case of a crash. Ideally, this would result in a softer impact in the case of a collision; reducing the severity of injury.
This would work through a series of cables, rods or springs control the rigidity of the car’s outer surfaces. In the event of a collision, the system alters the hardness of the car based on the object that has been hit.
“For example, if it is determined that a bicyclist is about to strike the hood and front bumper of the vehicle, the tension may be reduced for the tension members associated with the hood and front bumper, so as to reduce the rigidity of those surfaces,” says the patent.
Of course, this relies on additional technologies that allow the car to be able to detect what it is about to hit.
It would be interesting to see what kind of prototypes Waymo has in store for applying this patent. Typical sensors may have issues with identifying the kind of impact about to be made, such as when the self-driving car is about to collide with a motorcyclist or a cyclist where both a human and a solid object (e.g. motorcycle) is about to hit the car.
If you want to figure out how the entire technology works, check out the patent here.
[Source: The Verge]