This won't hurt a bit. Google

The airbags would be made out of a material with a consistency somewhere between that of an earplug and memory foam.

Most cars have airbags that are designed to protect passengers in a crash, but Googles driverless cars may go a step further, with airbags designed to protect nearby pedestrians.

(U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

Google is working on a driverless car that already has spent countless test hours learning the rules of the road. In a new patent awarded to Google yesterday (March 24), the company outlined a system for external airbags and bumpers that could deploy in the event of an accident. One idea suggested in the patent is to mount airbags on the outside of the cars, to create a buffer for pedestrians. These airbags would deploy when the car senses that a collision with another vehicle is imminent.

The patent notes that using traditional car bumpers and airbags would most likely cause a person to bounce off and injure themselves in the resultant collision with the ground. Google's solution for preventing pedestrian injuries of this sort: bumpers made out of a "visco-elastic material." While the patent doesn't specify what that material could be, it most likely would be of a consistency somewhere between that of an earplug and memory foam.
Those could be human legs. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

While so far there have only been two recorded incidents involving Google's cars—one when a car was rear-ended, and another when a car allegedly was being operated manually—it's not surprising that Google would want to include as many safety features as possible. Driverless cars make some people nervous. And California, the state where Google and others are testing out driverless cars, is still contending with the ethicality of the vehicles.

Google is not the only company working on external airbags: Volvo has pedestrian-sensing airbags on some of its vehicles, but they don't have the memory-foam-like bumpers behind them. It's still unclear whether these bumpers in fact will be included in Google's driverless cars; the company wasn't immediately available to comment. But the concept certainly appears to make sense as a means of protecting pedestrians. As potential parties to collisions go, we tend to be rather squishy.

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

More from Quartz:

The Five Things Buhari Should Do If Nigeria Elects Him President This Weekend

Thailand's Teflon Economy Finally Seems to Be Cracking

Obama Promised to Deport Felons, Not Families—But That's Not What's Happening

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    Who’s Really Buying Property in San Francisco?

    A lot of software developers, according to an unprecedented new analysis.

  2. a rendering of the moon village with a view of Earth
    Design

    Designing the First Full-Time Human Habitat on the Moon

    SOM, in partnership with the ESA and MIT, wants to accommodate research and maybe even tourism on the moon.

  3. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  4. Maria Romano stands behind one of her three children, Jennifer, 10, as she gets something to eat in their Harlem apartment in New York Thursday, June 3, 2005
    Equity

    Why HUD Wants to Restrict Assistance for Immigrants

    A proposal by Ben Carson’s agency would eject immigrant families from public housing to make way for the "most vulnerable." Housing advocates aren't buying it.

  5. a photo of a Metro PCS store in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    What D.C.’s Go-Go Showdown Reveals About Gentrification

    A neighborhood debate over music swiftly became something bigger, and louder: a cry for self-determination from a community that is struggling to be heard.