Giving your car a cushioning structure when you are in a crash

Car Cushion The difficulty in designing cars is how to make them perform efficiently in different situations.

Google now has a patent that allows a car to change its rigidity in the case of a crash.

It was an old adage that cars from yesteryear were safer because they were more “solid”.  But this has given way to building crumple zones so that a car collapses gradually creating a cushioning effect, albeit in a fraction of a second.

A safety organisation once build a simple sled to prove the point.  You sat in a car seat (with a seat belt) and then you slid down a gentle slope to reach a speed of only 5km/hr.  The structure on which you sat then ran into a solid steel barrier.  There was no “give” and you stopped very suddenly.

Even at such a slow speed, the forces that went through your body were stunning.

An airbag is an obvious way to cushion your impact but you don’t want it sitting in front of you all the time.  Hence the development of a concealed device that activates when you need it.

So what about the structure of your car?  You don’t want the any part of the outside of your vehicle flopping about like a pillow in the wind.

Google’s patent, coming from its self-driving car unit Waymo, speaks of a system and method for altering a vehicle’s rigidity. The system and method may include detecting an object in a vehicle’s surroundings; determining that the object and the vehicle will collide and altering a tension in one or more members.

The tension members may be cables, and the tension of the cables may be reduced by one of cutting, releasing, or loosening the cables. The surface of the vehicle may be at least one of a hood, bumper, or panel.  A portion of the surface may be corrugated.  It may also be in a pillar.

The detecting of the object may be add to the sophistication of the system.  The vehicle may “classify” the object and alter the tension according to the type of object you are about to hit.

We are not yet at the stage where your car will turn into a bouncy castle just before a crash but, if they get this to work, it will be another way in which technology is making the car highly adaptable to crash situations.

About David Brown 19 Articles
David’s boyhood passion for motor cars did not immediately lead to a professional role in the motor industry. A qualified Civil Engineer he specialised in traffic engineering and transport planning. What followed were various positions including being seconded to a government think-tank for the planning of transport firstly in Sydney and then for the whole of NSW. After working with the NRMA and as a consultant he moved to being an independent writer and commentator on the broader areas of transport and the more specific areas of the cars we drive. His half hour motoring program “Overdrive” has been described as an “informed, humorous and irreverent look at motoring and transport from Australia and overseas”. It is heard on 22 stations across Australia. He does weekly interviews with several ABC radio stations and is also heard on commercial radio in Sydney. David has written for metropolitan and regional newspapers and has presented regular segments on metropolitan and regional television stations. David is also a contributor for AnyAuto