As autonomous vehicle development continues at a rapid pace, lots of the component technology needed to make driverless cars a reality is already finding its way into the models we're driving right now. A large amount of it so far is concentrated on safety, and understandably, we're talking largely about the safety of the vehicle's occupants. But it now appears GM is working on a new safety feature aimed at protecting pedestrians.
Like any businesses, automakers like to keep their latest new developments close to their chest until they want to make them public, but they can't stop people looking at filings to the U.S. Patent Office, which is where news of these pedestrian airbags has emerged from.
These external airbags for protecting pedestrians from collisions appear to be located at the front side of a vehicle and are hidden behind a "discrete door," which is located at the top of the wing just underneath the hood and just in front of the A-pillar.
Dated December 5, and originally filed for patent protection in 2014, the US Patent and Trademark Office issued the patent to GM Global Technology Operations LLC, and in the documents it's being described as a "fender-located pedestrian protection airbag."
Tom Wilkinson, a spokesman for General Motors, recently told the Autoblog website the company had nothing to announce about the patent at the moment, but confirmed "the pedestrian protection airbag could become an important engineering solution in the future."
This isn't the first time a pedestrian airbag has been thought of by a motor manufacturer though. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Volvo was actually the first manufacturer to flirt with a pedestrian airbag at the base of the windshield of the 2013 V40, which worked in conjunction with a pedestrian detection system. Now though, like other manufacturers, Volvo appears to have decided to stick with advanced pedestrian detection systems instead of external airbags, at least for now.