FutureStructure

Waymo Wants to Build a Collapsible Self-Driving Car

Google spinoff Waymo has a new patent for developing a car that loses its rigidity during a crash, lessening the impact.

by / August 9, 2017
A self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan from Google spin-off Waymo. Waymo

Imagine a car that starts to fall apart prior to crashing.

That’s sort of what Google spinoff Waymo wants its self-driving car to do when it encounters an impending crash, according to Silicon Beat, the tech blog by California's San Jose Mercury News.

The company has received a patent for technology that would make the car less rigid just before a crash. The thinking is that components like the hood, panels and bumpers — those items most impacted in a collision — would become less rigid thanks to tension cables that would automatically loosen when the car’s computer says it's headed for a crash.

Looser components lessen the impact of collision, reasons Waymo, which has been working on self-driving car technology since 2009. Waymo broke off from Google last year, forming an independent company under the Alphabet corporate umbrella. Google has long pitched self-driving cars as a way to reduce traffic accidents and car deaths. 

The self-driving technology being developed by Waymo includes sensors and software designed to detect pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles and driving impediments. But if a crash does occur, Waymo wants the car to become a bit more flexible, causing less damage.