If you hit a pedestrian, it doesn’t matter how safe the inside of the car is for you, the pedestrian is still getting hit by thousands of pounds of metal. That’s why Google wants to equip its self-driving vehicles with external airbags as well as internal ones, that way both the people inside of the car and outside of the car will have some sort of protection in the even that an accident happens.
While Google would contend that their driverless vehicles are more safe than a human controlling the wheel, the public likely won’t allow a car of its type to take to the road without some added safety precautions. One of those precautions could be the inclusion of external airbags in the event that the car unfortunately finds itself in an accident. A patent filed by the company details a system where airbags would be deployed in the event of a crash or coming in contact with a pedestrian. While this wouldn’t eliminate the risk of damage or injury, it could lessen the sting a lot more than if it were a direct head-on collision. Volvo has already tested vehicles with external airbags before, but this patent suggests Google could use some sort of memory foam-like foundation behind the airbags to lessen the chance that it sends a pedestrian flying to the pavement in the event of being hit.