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. a photo of the Eiffel Tower with the words "Made for Sharing" projected on it
    Life

    How France Tries to Keep English Out of Public Life

    France has a long history of using official institutions to protect the French language from outside influence. Still, English keeps working its way in.

  2. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

  3. An illustration of a turtle with a city on its shell
    Transportation

    Why Speed Kills Cities

    U.S. cities are dropping urban speed limits in an effort to boost safety and lower crash rates. But the benefits of less-rapid urban mobility don’t end there.  

  4. A photo of a Lyft ride-hailing vehicle.
    Transportation

    How Much Traffic Do Uber and Lyft Cause?

    A new analysis by the ride-hailing giants sheds some light on a long-asked question about their congestion impacts on U.S. cities.

  5. a photo of a school bus in traffic
    Transportation

    Boston Saved $5 Million by Routing School Buses with an Algorithm

    With 25,000 students and the nation’s highest transportation costs, the Boston Public School District needed a better way to get kids to class.

×