Google's self-driving cars introduce new safety feature

March 27, 2015 09:03 AM

Self-driving cars are continuing their climb toward the roads. Numerous companies are testing prototypes for autonomous vehicles, with a goal of increasing safety and protecting the investment of many car owners. Top-notch technology is only the tip of the iceberg. These vehicles are also pioneering new design features that could change the way automakers and drivers approach safety. 

New designs for new trends
Although there's still time for automakers to refine their final designs for self-driving cars, one idea is quickly taking hold: outside airbags. That's the latest idea to come from Google. The company was recently awarded a patent for an external system of airbags and bumpers that would be present on self-driving cars. 

Engadget explained that the airbags would work with a sensor system to detect when a collision in unavoidable. The bumpers would then inflate prior to impact in an effort to keep the outside object from hitting the car. 

There are a few problems with the idea of external airbags. For instance, while the goal is to protect pedestrians and cyclists, traditional airbags would probably send them sprawling when deployed. The solution is to change the material. Quartz noted that it would be made out of "visco-elastic material," which could be similar to memory foam, earplugs or similar objects that act as an absorbing cushion. 

Prioritizing safety for all
Autonomous cars are still years away from hitting the market, but drivers should be focusing on safety in the meantime. It all starts with vehicle maintenance - and this goes far beyond the traditional aspects of auto tune ups. While drivers need to make sure their headlights illuminate the road ahead and their brakes are strong enough to stop on any surface, they should also take steps to ensure technology operates smoothly.

Driver-assisting programs can go a long way toward crash prevention. By ensuring rear-view cameras, navigation tools, lane detection and other sensors are running without a hitch, motorists can severely reduce the risk of an accident. However, most car owners aren't able to care for these devices on their own. They'll likely need the help of professionals from an auto repair franchise. If that's the case, then sticking to a schedule for maintenance is key, as it will ensure any bugs in the systems are caught before they become a problem. 

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