Google’s Waymo Patents Self-Driving Cars that Soften if They Crash

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Self-driving car company Waymo, which is a spinoff of Google, has patented vehicle tech that reduces its own force during a collision.

In 2016, Waymo patented a flypaper-esque idea to forcibly stick pedestrians to the front of the vehicles that hit them, in what seems like a horrifying but potentially effective way to reduce injury after impact. This year’s idea may be even better, without needing to glue screaming civilians to the hood of anything.

Waymo seeks to reduce the overwhelming force of a collision, which is the “primary factor in the amount of damage that is caused by the vehicle.” To that end, they have pitched a self-driving car design that is maintained by cables under tension that could be released to soften the vehicle when sensors detect an imminent crash.

What the patent failed to describe was how exactly this might serve the safety concerns of a road populated by an ever-growing number of self-driving cars. Would such a vehicle be more deadly to its own passenger? Would such a system affect the inherent danger of a crash in any significant way? It’s a blue sky idea without answers for these questions, for now.

It is comforting, however, to know that Google and Waymo are considering ways to minimize risk. While self-driving vehicles will make for objectively safer roads, crashes remain inevitable. Any development that can lead us closer to a reality where car crashes are nothing but a tragic rarity is a good one.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.


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