Google Patents “Flypaper” to Save Pedestrians By Sticking Them to Car Hoods

Google engineers' newest concept for pedestrians would glue them to the front of cars. Image: U.S. Patent Office
Not the Onion. Image: U.S. Patent Office

The minds at Google have come up with a novel idea to protect pedestrians in the event of a collision with the company’s self-driving cars.

The tech behemoth was awarded a patent this week for what it describes as a “flypaper or double-sided duct tape”-type substance beneath an “eggshell” exterior on the hood of the car. In a collision with a human being, the shell would crack and the person would stick to the adhesive. The idea is that after the initial collision, the flypaper will prevent people from hitting the asphalt or getting run over, which is how severe injuries are often inflicted.

A Google spokesperson told the San Jose Mercury News the patent doesn’t mean the company will go ahead with implementation. Even if the idea works as planned, it’s easy to envision scenarios where it would backfire, like if the car strikes another vehicle or a tree while someone is glued to the hood.

A much more important question for the impending autonomous car future is how these systems will minimize the potential for collisions with pedestrians in the first place. A fleet of robocars won’t need flypaper if they can’t exceed, say, 15 mph while operating on crowded city streets.

  • ocschwar

    As a Techie with way too many Googlers for friends, I’d hazard a guess that Google agrees and would much prefer to just install software governors (and that they will be doing this de facto and sub rosa as much as possible.)

    It’s our sick culture that drives the search for such alternatives.

  • Mike

    This, in combination with a giant pillow strapped to the front of a car, might actually do something.

  • John

    So this corporate behemoth views us humans as insects to be squashed on their vehicles..

  • Joe R.

    Those were my thoughts as well. I was actually looking for a giant can of Raid on top of the car.

    Honestly, I’m in favor of anything which might save lives but the old adage an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure rings true. It’s better for robocars to avoid hitting pedestrians in the first place than to equip them with elaborate measures like this. That said, softer front ends, and a body shape designed more to slide the pedestrian out of the way rather than inflict blunt force trauma, are good ideas.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    As a Googler I think you should view this as the company’s sense of humor leaking out into the big blue world.

    G’s self-driving cars are already designed around pedestrian safety. They have foam front-ends, plastic windows, and can’t exceed 25MPH.

  • Guest

    I’m less concerned about situations where a “car strikes another vehicle or a tree while someone is glued to the hood,” and more keen to ensure paramedics could subsequently actually get the person detached quickly and safely.

  • lepeage

    Getting into the car business is notoriously risky. Post-oil, who wants that kind of mess?
    Google should invest in bikes.
    Also, have you seen these vile creations?
    Google, hire a Tesla designer if you ever hope to be taken seriously in this industry, then let me know your progress in 2021.

  • Jules1

    Not a bad idea.

    I’m a little wary of self-driving cars on city streets, but _if_ it’s done right it would be awesome to live in a world without road-rage, driver fatigue and distraction.

  • AnoNYC

    The 2016 Toyota Rav4 is supposed to have a hood that deflects a pedestrian onto the hood rather than underneath. Not sure if the Corolla has the same.

  • Why not rhinoceros-like spears instead? Heck, if you are going to set up cars to hunt pedestrians, why not go all the way?

    Self driving cars should be able to avoid most pedestrian crashes. Unlike human drivers, self driving cars should be programmed to pay attention, be linked to traffic control devices, and when needed, take immediate evasive action. They can add soft front ends, too.

  • thielges

    There are more powerful vehicles that can attain higher speeds. Still the programming is quite timid. We encountered one (a SUV) making a left from southbound Shoreline onto Villa in Mt. View. The street was narrow, we were in the opposite lane in Villa and close to the center line. The self-driving car came to a complete stop before completing the turn when there was about a 8 foot gap between our bumpers. Then it proceeded about 2 seconds later, probably enough time to acquire more accurate proximity and conflict data.

  • Kevin Love

    I suspect that this is a joke. I agree with Mr. Baker about the sense of humor of Google employees. The sperm-like drawing kind of confirms this.

    Still, if we are going to envision self-driving cars, the software should be programmed to protect human beings.

    In other words, the sensors would scan the environment. If there is some obstacle behind which a child may be hidden, such as a tree or parked car, the sensors should detect this. Then the car would be programmed to not exceed the speed that it could safely stop if the child should run in front of the car.

    Human being car drivers should do the same, but hey… car drivers…

  • Joe R.

    The car could have sensors to detect life signs instead. If there are life signs, it slows to a safe speed. If not, it doesn’t.

  • Jonathan.

    Banning cars would make more sense. Get people to walk where they’re going and watch the obesity epidemic disappear.
    Not joking.

  • Seems dumb, but setting that aside, why does this make sense for self-driving cars any more than for regular cars? Either one can bounce you off the hood then run you over. Oh I know why. A human driver can stand over you and say, “I’m sorry.” A robot can only sit there dumbly, so it’s less awkward if you’re glued to the hood.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Self driving cars use radar and lidar, they’re not magic. If it sees and obstacle, it will stop. Reaction time is for a computer is essentially instant, so for example, at 25mph, braking distance will be about 30 feet, or 2 car lengths for any object.

  • reasonableexplanation

    What are you more wary of; self driving cars on city streets, or fallible humans driving cars of city streets?

  • reasonableexplanation

    Post-oil? Ignoring the growing electrification of cars for a moment, what does that even mean here?

    Do you think the price of oil will increase? decrease?

  • AlanTobey

    Our new 2016 Prius (which btw gets 56 mpg) came with a “pedestrian detection” feature that activates forward braking if the driver doesn’t. Not planning to test it myself, but it’s a positive sign that this capability will one day be standard.

  • Vooch

    SD cars will Drive the speed limit

  • reasonableexplanation

    Exactly, which is why I don’t understand why someone would be wary of them, I guess?

  • User_1

    “The idea is that after the initial collision, the flypaper will prevent
    people from hitting the asphalt or getting run over, which is how severe
    injuries are often inflicted.”

    Ummmmm….. the injuries are inflicted from being hit. Maybe we can work on avoiding hitting pedestrians in the first place?

    How bout detecting when the driver is driving and shutting off the phone automatically? Sounds do-able.

  • Alex Brideau III

    I, for one, would trust a computer controlling a car any day over the human drivers I’ve observed.

  • Texas007

    then how do you get them off the car? Oh cooking oil just like the sticky rat traps, brilliant- NOT corny idea IMo

  • reasonableexplanation

    Take a look at the article; this is for self-driving cars. Whether or not the occupants of the car are on their phones makes no difference.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Qatar’s Obesity rate: 33.2%
    Cars per capita: 532/1000

    USA’s obesity rate: 33.0%
    Cars per capita: 809/1000

    There are other, much more significant factors at play than car ownership rates. Here’s some info:

  • KWillets

    Europe actually does pedestrian safety ratings, so these features are gradually making it around the world.

  • User_1

    I’m referring using the company’s technology today, not some fantasy that looks suspect to begin with.

  • KWillets

    This is Google’s new ridesharing service.

  • PastTense

    While I share the view that this is probably a joke; if not there will soon be a huge amount of junk sticking to the hood, ranging from dirt to bugs to fast food packaging….


Today’s Headlines

Barcelona’s “Superblocks” Concept Would Limit Cars to Major Thoroughfares (Guardian) Top 5 “Infrastructure Emergencies” Include Metrorail, Gateway Tunnel (The Hill) Denver Highway Opponents Protest Outside Anthony Foxx’s “Smart City” Visit to Denver (Denver Post) Kansas City Streetcar Carried 57,000 Riders Its First Week (KC Star) Google to Patent “Flypaper” Innovation to Protect Pedestrians Hit By Self-Driving Cars (Mercury […]

Today’s Headlines

Five-Year $305 Billion Transportation Bill Emerges From Conference Committee (The Hill) 14 Percent of LA County Is Dedicated to Parking (Curbed) Highlights From #BlackFridayParking (Strong Towns) Providence Residents Want Boulevard to Replace Highway (Providence Journal) Last-Minute Change Spares Big Cuts to New Jersey Transit ( Google Patents Technology for Self-Driving Cars Interacting With Pedestrians (Tech Crunch) […]

Bikes, Cars, and People Co-Exist on Pittsburgh’s Shared Streets

Summer is finally here, but livable streets advocates already can’t wait for September to come. The biennial Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place conference is taking place in Pittsburgh, a city that’s shedding its “Rust Belt” image and emerging as a leader in progressive street design with the help of a new mayor who’s committed to biking, […]