Google-owned Waymo has always wanted to reduce the number of deaths related to automobile accidents, and its latest patent is just another attempt at accomplishing that goal.
The Mercury News and Quartz spotted a Waymo patent for a new type of driverless car design - one that is held together internally by “tension members". These could be cables or springs, but the point is, they would tighten or loosen in order to adjust a car’s “external rigidity”. Sensors would sense if the car is about to “come into contact with another object” and then the car would adjust as needed.
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So, if the car's sensors spotted a potential impact, it would notify the car to become stiffer or softer. Most specifically, if the car were to hit a human, it would loosen to become softer. Here's how Waymo explained it: “For example, if it is determined that a bicyclist is about to strike the hood and front bumper of the vehicle, the tension may be reduced ... so as to reduce the rigidity of those surfaces".
This is all in theory, however, as there are no tests to prove whether such a car could actually be possible or even save lives. There's also no guarantee that this patent will ever come to fruition. But it's certainly interesting to imagine the possibilities.