Waymo has just received a patent for an autonomous vehicle that becomes less rigid when its sensors tell it that it’s about to get into a collision. “The force of the vehicle’s impact is a primary factor in the amount of damage that is caused by the vehicle,” said the patent granted Aug. 8. “Accordingly, it is desirable to design a vehicle that can reduce the force of impact experienced during a collision.” Making a car floppy reduces the damage it could cause to other vehicles or people.
Under the newly patented technology, a car’s hood, panels and bumpers could be made rigid with the use of cables under tension. Reducing the tension would reduce the rigidity of the car in the place it was going to be hit, according to the patent.