Google's Driverless Cars Could Have Airbags on the Outside

By Gary Cutlack on at

Google's ideas team has logged a new concept from its selection of comfy brainstorming bean bags, applying for a patent that puts the airbags on the outside of cars -- to protect pedestrians from having their legs bent backwards in the event of a collision.

The actual patent describes the invention as a "System for pedestrian leg protection in vehicle impact," before going on to explain that "a plurality of air sacs" on the car's bumper would protect pedestrians were, for example, a hacker to seize control of a driverless vehicle and plough it through a packed farmer's market.

Google is suggesting that these airbags are designed to pop upon impact too, explaining that: "...the bursting of some of the plurality of air sacs reduces spring back of the bumper on the pedestrian," meaning that the car crashes of the future could be accompanied by a manic popping sound, as if a million pieces of bubblewrap were popped at once.

It's an interesting move, as Google's previously suggested that it's more likely to license its driverless tech to existing automakers rather than go it alone and produce the vehicles itself -- so why is it patenting such niche safety features? [USPTO via Engadget]