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Google Patents Self-Driving Car That Glues Pedestrians To The Hood In A Crash (cnn.com) 203

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Google just got a patent for a special kind of coating on self-driving cars that could help prevent pedestrian injuries. The company wants to coat autonomous vehicles with a sticky substance so that if they hit a pedestrian, the person would be glued to the car instead of flying off. "[The pedestrian] is not thrown from the vehicle, thereby preventing a secondary impact between the pedestrian and the road surface or other object," says the patent, granted on Tuesday. Google explains that an "adhesive layer" would be placed on the hood, front bumper and front side panels of a car. A thin coating would protect it until an impact occurred. Google is paying Arizona residents $20 per hour to test its self-driving vehicles.
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Google Patents Self-Driving Car That Glues Pedestrians To The Hood In A Crash

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:11PM (#52145377)

    with all the options

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:45PM (#52145605)

      1. Go to Goodwill and buy some really cheap used clothes.
      2. Look for a SDC going in your direction.
      3. Jump onto the side of the car.
      4. When you get to your destination, squirm out of the clothes, and leave them stuck to the vehicle.

      Uber will also have an optional discount for riding on the hood of the car.

    • physics! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @08:14PM (#52145765)

      I suspect the logic for this idea comes from considering an elastic collision between a heavy and light object.
      for a car with mass M, and intial velocity Vi and pedestrian of mass m, with initially no velocity and then final velocity Vp we can write:

      MVi = MVf + mVp

      MVi^2 = MVf^2 + mVp^2

      for conservation of momentum and energy.

      Solving these equations for Vp we get

      Vp = 2 Vf *M/(M+m) ~ 2Vf

      so an elastic collision throws the pedestrian off at a speed of twice the car's velocity, who then hits the ground.

      If the pedestrian sticks to the car their final velocity if half that and four times less energtic.

      Even if it's not a fully elastic collision the point is taken it's better to stick to the car.

      • Re:physics! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rgbatduke ( 1231380 ) <rgbNO@SPAMphy.duke.edu> on Friday May 20, 2016 @07:28AM (#52147731) Homepage

        Super-good physics. Now consider the practical aspect of driving a car with active glue all over the paint through:

        * Bugs. I can coat my windshield with bug guts in a single night drive from my house to the coast through various swampy regions. And my windshield isn't sticky.

        * Pollen. I live in NC, and in the spring my car -- well, really everything, not just my car, inside and out -- is coated with a layer of tree pollen so thick that it is virtually opaque. Again, this sticks to hard finish PAINT. I can only imagine how tightly it will adhere to glue as it sits out in the sun.

        * Dust. Even when the pollen season is over, there is always dust in the air. Always. That's why we have to wash our cars a few times a year unless we want people to write "wash me" with their fingers on our fenders and windshields.

        * Salt + grime. Yes I live in the south without that problem so much but h/t to our northern cousins who have to drive through slushmelt. I'm guessing immersing an active glue surface in slushmelt would pretty much end the effectiveness of the glue.

        * Fall leaves. For that matter, summer leaves if you park under live oaks or evergreens. Maple seeds. Acorns. Birds. Squirrels. I can't wait to come out some morning and see my self-driving car with a seagull glued to the front fender. Oh my.

        * Children, pets, old people.

        I would say that all of this makes it impractical to drive a car with active sticky flypaper instead of paint as a "permanent" primary front coating. Laughably impractical.

        Which leaves us with the only alternative -- a "glue bag" as a sort of external equivalent of an internal airbag. Now, is it possible to come up with a formula for stickum that can be sprayed in the (say) millisecond before a collision so that it coats a pedestrian -- but not their mouth or eyes or lungs, which would be "bad" -- and the front bumper just in time to catch the human and stick them and hold during the millisecond or so that they are actually in contact with the bumper/hood? Personally I doubt it. I know of no glues that can be applied and will stick and set in a millisecond, especially glues that are non-toxic and safe to spray onto random humans to lower risk of death. Can you imagine an explosion of super-glue all over somebody -- not that super-glue can come close to bonding in a millisecond.

        So this seems like a really stupid idea too. Which makes the entire idea sound incredibly stupid, not worth the money required to patent it. If they wanted to accomplish the same thing in a PRACTICAL way, they could just mount airbags on the front fender that were triggered by certain conditions, such as an impending collision. That would actually be USEFUL -- and not just for humans. Having a heavy-duty airbag go off to cushion a regular collision between two cars could actually significantly reduce the average force during the impulse by spreading it out over a meter BEFORE starting to crumple the front bumper accordion. It would also do exactly the same thing as the glue to a pedestrian only better -- catch them on a meter or so of compressing air while the impulse matches their speed to that of the car. You might even be able to make the bag itself "sticky", although I suspect that would interfere with its explosion -- at least you might be able to make it out of e.g. neoprene with a non-stick stickiness.

        Not impressed, wouldn't invest.

        • by bwcbwc ( 601780 )

          Maybe it's more like Velcro than glue??? That would at least leave the option of something that can grab onto fabric but not skin or dust.

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            How about we make it law that all pedestrians must wear a ferrous breastplate and backplate.... then equip the cars with a really really powerful electromagnet

        • Literally right in the summary.

          A thin coating would protect it until an impact occurred.

          Sticky adhesive under a thin layer of something which would give way when a sizable impact occurs, allowing the pedestrian to stick to the adhesive.

          • And, I wish them the best of luck with that.

            I think front end airbags would, as explained, work much better. Among other things, they would actually work, using existing, well-developed, technology. For another, even if we imagine constructing front bumpers that are hollow, perforated on the front with holes that are plugged in such a way that they will rupture out into the incoming body (and not everywhere else where they won't do any good), and filled with a glue that is liquid enough to squirt through

        • The elastic layer itself is supposed to contained under another normal layer of material that supposedly breaks away in the event of an impact to expose the adhesive layer underneath. I don't believe that they just sprayed the top of the car with glue.

        • Google explains that an "adhesive layer" would be placed on the hood, front bumper and front side panels of a car. A thin coating would protect it until an impact occurred.

          Can't even be bothered to read the whole summary, eh? Proper sensitivity calibration eliminates your first 4 and a half points.

        • I think the obvious solution here is that similar to jaywalking laws, there should be a law that any pedestrian cross a street should be required to wear "Glue Suits" that would glue them to any objects that hit them.

          If you think about it, this is really much more beneficial as it also works with the legacy car systems of today - you would be glued to the vast hood of a '76 Buick just as well as you would to the sloping sides of a Google Egg Car.

        • According to the summary, there's a coating to protect the adhesive material. So presumably the adhesive wouldn't normally be exposed, but would be removed by an impact, revealing the sticky material underneath, so it's not quite as absurd as you've written here.

          I am curious just how well this coating would work in practice, however. The effectiveness of the coating is definitely a major potential point of weakness of this tech.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Which makes me wonder, how will they stop the build up of insects and other road debris sticking to the front of the car and making the adhesive ineffective? How will the stop is washing off?

      • by Sique ( 173459 )
        As per TFA: with a thin coating over the glue. Until the coating breaks due to an impact, the glue stays sealed.
    • by bwcbwc ( 601780 )

      Katamari Damacy...Sounds like prior art to me...call the lawyers!

      And if not Katamari, I'm pretty sure Tom & Jerry cartoons portrayed the concept of plastering pedestrians to the hood of your car decades ago.

      On a more practical note, how does the coating distinguish between pedestrians and road dirt? Or is there a hidden "razor blade" cost here that you have to refresh the coating every month or so? Additional accident liability if you didn't wash your car and the pedestrian failed to stick?

  • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:12PM (#52145383)

    between the car and another object/vehicle

    • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:22PM (#52145439)

      between the car and another object/vehicle

      Exactly my thought. The car won't be damaged because your body will cushion the (next) impact.

      • by BigDukeSix ( 832501 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @11:22PM (#52146509)

        Pedestrians either get hit in the street or parking lot, or they get pinned against the wall of a garage (where else are the cars?). In the latter case, the crush injury happens irrespective of the presence of the adhesive layer. We should consider edge cases, but this is a bona fide genius idea. Add a dispersive gel layer underneath the adhesive and this might make a real difference.

        Disclaimer: I am a trauma surgeon, and do crash reconstruction work on the side.

        • It'll work well until Autumn - leaf fall might just have something to say about this idea (although the cars will actually look pretty cool entirely encrusted in leaves).

      • by beh ( 4759 ) * on Friday May 20, 2016 @01:17AM (#52146773)

        You're forgetting another important point - with one person stuck to the car, google might recoup some of the research funding by exposing their captive audience (i.e. poor schmuck on the fender) to "relevant ads" (lawyers, health professionals)...

    • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      Most (all?) pedestrian impacts I've seen, the car hits a pedestrian in the crosswalk, typically they're not barreling through a farmer's market and off in to oncoming traffic. Even in all those crazy traffic videos, I've never seen a car hit a pedestrian and then another car.

  • Ideas (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HumanWiki ( 4493803 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:14PM (#52145393)
    They're not always good.
    • I honestly thought it was a joke, but I checked the calendar and saw that it wasn't April 1.
    • This is a great idea. Previously, one would attempt to grab the edge of the hood against the windshield in order to not be thrown off. It happens when riding a bicycle because you are elevated and sometimes not simply run over.

    • Why?

      Do you have a basis for your opinion?

  • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:19PM (#52145423) Homepage

    Auto safety features inspired by Carmageddon. That's just what we needed.

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:19PM (#52145425)

    I wonder if you get a steam achievement for collecting multiple pedestrians?

  • "The pedestrian is not thrown from the vehicle, thereby preventing a secondary impact between the pedestrian and the road surface or other object,"

    Or...

    "The pedestrian is not thrown from the vehicle, thereby ALLOWING a secondary impact between the pedestrian and the next car it hits."

    Don't worry- the car won't be damaged because your body will cushion the impact!

    • Right, given accidents by drunk drivers, the victim may still be stuck to the hood the next morning.

  • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:22PM (#52145441)
    If you are able to glue the face of the victim to the hood such that they suffocate. Remember this is America and lawsuits are like a friendly hello.
    • Or literally rip their face off when combined with the momentum.

      • by Matheus ( 586080 )

        Especially if this adhesive coating is applied to the windshield too...

        The trauma from the kid sitting in their car staring at the lifeless *detached face of the person they just killed would make for a fantastic movie.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What we should be discussing is why they have Yuri Kochiyama as today's google doodle with a whitewashed description of what she stood for. Apparently idolizing Mao and Osama Bin Laden is somehow important to google.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:23PM (#52145461) Journal

    Self-driving cars are going to be fun after all.

  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:29PM (#52145503)

    Naaaaa nanana nana nana na na na ... Katamari Damaciiiiii... [youtube.com]

    Perfect song for the car.

    Ryan Fenton

  • by aklinux ( 1318095 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:30PM (#52145509) Homepage
    It will only stick pedestrians. Not dirt, birds, cats, etc ;-)
    • First thing I thought when I saw that headline was "Perma-bugs!"
    • by slew ( 2918 )

      It will only stick pedestrians. Not dirt, birds, cats, etc ;-)

      Or perma-graffiti (imagine interesting variations on lyft mustaches).

      The only possible use of this would be to disincentivize people from throwing themselves in front of self driving cars near cross-walks and filing lawsuits...

      If a self driving car transferred enough of its momentum to a pedestrian, I suspect the energy needed to be absorbed by the person to create a net inelastic collision would be pretty harsh, or the person's clothes might stick to the car but they won't be sufficiently attached to the b

  • Before they realize this might have some unexpected problems.
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:33PM (#52145535)

    It can’t JUST be a sticky layer, otherwise it’ll last about 5 minutes before it gets a layer of environmental debris on it.

  • See... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stormy Dragon ( 800799 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:34PM (#52145541) Homepage

    ...this is what you get when you legalize recreational marijuana.

  • ...you don't even have to slow up to grab someone off the street, just jump the sidewalk, glue them on and haul them away to a secluded point for hiding.

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @07:57PM (#52145679)
    And some days you're the bug.
  • Afterwards? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @08:05PM (#52145727) Journal

    Okay, so the concept is the person is hit by the car and does not go flying 20 feet when the car hits them. They have an outer-shell that is reasonably strong so you're not picking up bugs, grass, etc. Sounds like a plan.

    My question is "How do you get the person unstuck afterwards?"

    So I'm standing in the road and the car hits me, I stick to his hood and I'm now traveling the speed of his car, let's say 30 MPH. He jams on his brakes because, let's face it, there's a guy stuck to his hood. The nice thing is that I'm not going to fly off the car at 30 MPH. The car comes to a stop and the driver gets out and asks if I'm okay. I may have some bumps and bruises, but I'm good.

    Okay, that's gotta be pretty good stickum to hold my 180-pounds to the car while it's decelerating. So how do I peel myself off the hood of his car? I mean, I would imagine that any stickum that can hold me in place while a car decelerates from 30 to 0 is not going to let me just get up afterwards.

    And Lord help the hairy shirtless men who get hit. That's gonna hurt!

    • Okay, so the concept is the person is hit by the car and does not go flying 20 feet when the car hits them. They have an outer-shell that is reasonably strong so you're not picking up bugs, grass, etc. Sounds like a plan.

      My question is "How do you get the person unstuck afterwards?"

      So I'm standing in the road and the car hits me, I stick to his hood and I'm now traveling the speed of his car, let's say 30 MPH. He jams on his brakes because, let's face it, there's a guy stuck to his hood. The nice thing is that I'm not going to fly off the car at 30 MPH. The car comes to a stop and the driver gets out and asks if I'm okay. I may have some bumps and bruises, but I'm good.

      Okay, that's gotta be pretty good stickum to hold my 180-pounds to the car while it's decelerating. So how do I peel myself off the hood of his car? I mean, I would imagine that any stickum that can hold me in place while a car decelerates from 30 to 0 is not going to let me just get up afterwards.

      And Lord help the hairy shirtless men who get hit. That's gonna hurt!

      Even better is someone who gets partially stuck and most of them thrown off the car. Most of them....

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      My thought is is that getting the victim unstuck will be the first thing the paramedics want to do.

    • Simples. After every drive you pressure-clean off all the pedestrians and apply a new layer.

    • What if the pedestrian shifts prior to actually becoming stuck?

      I'm picturing the case where the car keeps moving, but there is some part of the poor sap being dragged over asphalt.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BitZtream ( 692029 )

      180 pounds covering a 13x13" area is 1 pound per inch.

      That's not a lot of to hold on too, so when you hands apple 180 pounds to smaller areas, of you come.

      Also, how it reacts to fast motion can be different than slow. Think about non-newtonion fluids. You can run across a pool for the proper ratio of water and corn starch ... Or you can stop and sink in it.

    • And Lord help the hairy shirtless men who get hit. That's gonna hurt!

      Extra points for not cleaning/reconditioning the hood afterwards, and driving around with a torso-shaped patch of hair for several weeks.

  • by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @08:12PM (#52145755)

    A very quick skim of the patent says that there would be a coating on top of the adhesive coating. This top coat is designed to break during impact, exposing the pedestrian to the adhesive underneath.

    I'm not sure the patent designer considered what to do when the car is inevitably hit with gravel or other objects that are sharp or have enough energy to break the topcoat.

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday May 19, 2016 @08:14PM (#52145763)

    to the term "bumper sticker".

  • Isn't the point of autonomous vehicles to avoid hitting pedestrians?

  • I'm pretty sure this is just part of Google's whole skynet thing they have going on. Like it's watched Terminator dozens of times and decided that what it needs to do is snag John Conner with a self driving car before he can become a thorn in Google's side.
  • Rocks kicked up by other cars?
    The neighbor kid's Frisbee?
    Various other types of road debris?

    Hopefully, they've found a way to keep this from happening or it won't be too long before your Google car will look like a garbage dump on wheels. The FA didn't say anything about how often you'd need to take your Google car in to be resurfaced with a new layer of glue.

  • ...You'll literally turn your car into a giant fly strip? Someone should patent a cover for this to keep your car clean -- sound almost as good of an idea as the original patent.
  • Since you're already in trouble.
  • For when you hit a moose at least you can feed your family for the next while because it won't escape.

  • The summary implies that you'd have to hit the surface really hard before it became sticky. There's a non-sticky coating over the adhesive. Presumably they'd formulate it so that you get something that doesn't crack when a bug or even a bird hits it. A pedestrian impact would be hard enough to crack it and release the adhesive.

    That still doesn't mean it's a practical idea; but it's better than some people are making it out to be.

    • Gravel and sand are harder than pedestrians and impact cars very frequently, typically at much faster velocities.
      Have you never driven behind a truck?

  • It is hard to take Slashdot articles seriously these days. Lots of hype and wacky stuff announced as almost ready. Who runs this now? They must have a seat next to the kool aid tank.

    I can think of dozens of reasons why the adhesive idea is stupid. Here is where thinking goes bad: one single scenario is considered and then they stop thinking. The scenario is: new car, no hand buffed wax, warm climate, city speeds, honest driver who will stop and help injured people, and a mild hit at a cross walk.

    Th

  • What about the rest of the stuff that normally lands on cars? Like bugs, birds, leaves, squirrels, chipmunks, poop, dust...
  • Other Mammals? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VorpalRodent ( 964940 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @08:06AM (#52147893)

    I live in Wisconsin. On the back roads, it's not uncommon to see deer attempt to cross traffic, and there are quite a few unlucky motorists who manage to hit one.

    Now, if the impact doesn't kill the deer, I have an angry/terrified deer thrashing about on my hood.

    If the impact *does* kill the deer, I'll need to have tags with me, since I'm now transporting a deer that I just killed.

  • by Hotawa Hawk-eye ( 976755 ) on Friday May 20, 2016 @10:32AM (#52148679)
    If this ever comes out, I give it five minutes before some drunk folks decide to try to stick themselves to their friend's car and go down the road at a high rate of speed for the thrill of it. Let's hope that flypaper is strong enough to hold at 50 or 60 miles per hour.
  • Never mind that the surface of a car can be blazing hot even in the winter...

  • This could be a good way to get rid of those pesky fast food wrappers, and keep them from blowing around the street.

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