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Waymo Unveils a New Collapsible Car Design to Improve Pedestrian Safety

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Last year, Google achieved a patent on its “sticky” car shell design which would help protect pedestrians during collisions; they would adhere to the car instead of bouncing off and landing on the hard asphalt to sustain even more injuries. (Cool—but seriously, “human trap” cars? Does Google view pedestrians as some sort of large fly?…)

This year, Waymo trumps Google’s design with a more sophisticated soft exterior car design. It just received a patent for it on August 8th.

Exactly how does the Waymo soft exterior work? One of the main features of the design are the cables referred to as “tension members.” In normal road circumstances, the tension members are taught, so the car holds its firm shape.


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pedestrians crossing safety

New technology like Waymo’s collapsible car gives pedestrians the hope of greater safety on the streets.
Photo: Wilshire Law Firm

If sensors on the car sense a crash, however, it triggers the car to cut or at least loosen the tension members. This results in collapsing typically rigid car parts like the bumper, side panels, or the hood. The design even incorporates advanced technology that detects the potential collision and even categorizes it (for example: tree, lamp post, pedestrian, biker, etc.).

With so many companies constantly pushing the bounds of high-tech safety features for vehicles, like blind spot and pedestrian alert tools, this new soft auto exterior is a significant contribution to the industry. It will be interesting to see when and if Waymo shares this exciting technology with major manufacturers, so mainstream vehicles can offer this feature. 


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Waymo has yet to release information about safety conditions for passengers inside the soft-walled car. But, for pedestrians outside of this new car, the design is definitely a promising new technology that would increase roadside safety for anyone traveling on foot.

We look forward to further developments as Waymo finesses its new collapsible car.

Source: Quartz