We have yet another intriguing self-driving car development on our hands, courtesy of Waymo. The Google-owned company has come up with an interesting way to make autonomous vehicles “softer.” Waymo wants to protect pedestrians in case they are accidentally hit by a vehicle, and a collapsible exterior is the key to doing so.
Self-driving Cars Capable of Protecting Pedestrians
Few people would think that autonomous vehicles could cause an accident. Just because our vehicles are getting smarter does not mean pedestrians will. In fact, the vehicles are designed to make roads safer, but it is possible pedestrians and other users outside of these vehicles may create new hazards. It is impossible to design a flawed system or piece of coding. Preparing for all potential contingencies is never a bad idea.
Waymo is addressing this problem and they may have just come up with a solution that works for everybody. The company has created a way to make the exterior of a self-driving car collapse onto itself. This means the impact for the pedestrian -or animal- will be far less severe. It is unclear if this will have any positive effect as a whole, but it is good to see the company focus on what is really important.
Autonomous vehicles are equipped with so many built-in sensors they should be able to avoid any type of collision altogether. However, there is still a lot of work to be done before this can even become a reality. Companies are working on smart vehicles capable of gathering sensory input from the environment as well as other vehicles in their vicinity. Obtaining data from pedestrians and other moving objects will be quite difficult for the time being. Preparing for the worst in terms of whatever may happen if things go awry may be a more than viable approach.
Waymo patented a car design which allows for a collapsible exterior which may change the way we think about vehicles all together. The vehicles would be held together internally by multiple “tension members,” which can loosen or tighten to adjust external rigidity. It will not make your car fit into tight parking spaces per se, but it does open up a lot of new opportunities to explore by the company. With sensors capable of detecting a potential collision risk, the car’s exterior could effectively turn softer to avoid major damage. It could also make the car stronger to ensure passengers are kept same from harm when a collision happens.
With smarter cars coming to a road near you in the future, pedestrians and bicyclist will need to be even more aware of their surroundings. That may sound strange, but self-driving cars will not necessarily go out of their way for your convenience. This will not lead to people blatantly ignoring the road rules, but there may be some initial issues until this technology matures. After all, we are still in the very early stages of developing autonomous vehicles and there may be plenty of quirks to contend with during the first few years.
It has not been officially confirmed Waymo will integrate this technology into self-driving cars. A patent filing is another validation of a company’s future plans. It certainly sparks the imagination as to how this technology can be used moving forward. A collapsible or reinforceable car exterior can be quite beneficial. It will be interesting to see how this technology is used in the future and which use cases will be discovered. Waymo is certainly worth keeping an eye on, as the Google-owned company has some nifty ideas now and then.