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Google patents flypaper-like coating for self-driving cars

The idea sounds kind of crazy. A pedestrian gets struck by a self-driving car and then remains stuck to front of the vehicle by specially designed adhesive, kind of like flypaper. The idea is to reduce further injuries that might occur if the pedestrian went flying from the force of the collision.

Far-fetched or not, this scenario is outlined in an actual patent Google received May 17 for technology that aims to address concerns over pedestrian safety in a coming era that will see more self-driving cars on the road.

The patent calls the technology a "system for protecting a colliding object from a secondary impact."

"The adhesive layer may be a very sticky material and operate in a manner similar to flypaper, or double-sided duct tape," the patent reads. This illustration, included with the patent filing, shows how it's envisioned to work:

google-car-patent.jpg
This illustration shows a pedestrian hit by a self-driving car only to be stuck the front of the vehicle with the adhesive system patented by Google to prevent further injury. Google/U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

"The front region of the vehicle may be coated with a specialized adhesive that adheres to a pedestrian, and thus holds the pedestrian on the vehicle in the unfortunate event that the front of the vehicle comes into contact with the pedestrian," the patent reads. "The adhesion of the pedestrian to the vehicle may prevent the pedestrian from bouncing off."

Even though the technology outlined is a little cartoonish, it addresses a very real concern for pedestrians struck by cars. Often, when a car hits a person, he or she is carried along with the car until the driver hits the brakes. This would then propel the person forward, off the vehicle, and potentially set them up for more injury from hitting onto the ground or flying into the path of other vehicles.

For its part, Google suggested that this technology is purely speculative at the moment. Flypaper-coated cars are unlikely to hit the market any time soon -- or maybe ever.

"We hold patents on a variety of ideas -- some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't," a spokesperson for Google's Self-Driving Car Project wrote in an email to CBS News. "Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents."

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