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  • Writer's pictureClaire Gibson-Pienaar

UNPACKING GOOGLE'S INTRIGUING "HUMAN FLY PAPER" AUTOMOTIVE PATENT IDEA

Updated: Nov 11, 2023


Google often boasts about how their self-driving cars can save lives as they do not crash into things. Nevertheless, crashes do still occur, and when they do, Google has now developed a backup plan through their patented idea – “human flypaper”.


Google was awarded a patent that suggests positioning a strong, sticky adhesive layer on the hood of Google’s autonomous cars. This rather strong and sticky adhesive layer on the hood of the car adheres a pedestrian to the adhesive layer upon impact when the car hits a pedestrian or cyclist, thereby preventing the pedestrian from suffering a secondary impact. This essentially means that a pedestrian or cyclist that is hit by one of Google’s self-driven cars will happen to find themselves stuck to the hood of the car, preventing them from being thrown back off the car, hitting the roof of the car, the hard surface of the road or another car (which prevents so-called “secondary impact”). This secondary impact often causes the most serious injuries during a crash.


Google filed this patent in 2014 and the purpose of its design is to serve as a temporary solution to keep humans around the self-driving cars safe while autonomous technology further improves. The patent filed describes the adhesive layer on the hood of the car to also contain a kind of “eggshell”-like coating to stop insects and other smaller animals from sticking to the hood like actual flypaper.


The question on everyone’s lips is would this invention work to prevent serious secondary injuries? From a physics standpoint, being hit by a car once is decidedly more preferable than being hit by a car and then another car or hard surface. The idea of turning cars into large glue traps is certainly a feature that could have urban applications beyond autonomous cars. This idea could potentially be applied to all dangerous moving objects. The idea is a variation on an external airbag, and on the face of it seems like a rather good idea for a low-speed car as a backup safety measure.


The idea is not flawless since having a pedestrian/cyclist stuck to the front of a car, the car may have trouble moving to safety or may drag the human’s limbs under the car, thereby inflicting new injuries. However, another great benefit to this idea, besides preventing secondary injuries from occurring, is that having a person stuck to the hood of a car may stop a human driver from fleeing the scene of an accident and, in doing so, reduce the number of hit-and-runs.


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