Google Plans To Equip Driverless Cars With External Air Bags

With nearly every major automaker working on autonomous car technology, it won’t be too long before we are sharing the road with driverless vehicles.

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


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 today to Google yesterday, 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.


The idea of airbags-on-the-outside isn’t completely new, though. Volvo is also toying with the idea, here’s how the carmaker imagines it would look like:

If the idea of exterior airbags sounds a little curious, the patent was granted as automobile industry sage Elon Musk continues to affirm the safety of self-driving vehicles. “In the distant future,” Musk said at a recent tech conference, “legislators may outlaw driven cars because they’re too dangerous.”

Source: Quartz