If the worst happens, serious injuries can be reduced.
Although people generally drove less when the pandemic was at its worst last year, over 6,000 pedestrians still died on American roads in 2020. While pedestrian detection systems and automatic braking are fantastic technologies that can save lives, the reality is that pedestrians do still get struck by vehicles and cars should be designed in such a way so that they minimize the risk of serious injury or death. An impact-absorbing hood is one example, but CarBuzz has uncovered a new patent from Porsche that takes things a step further in an effort to reduce the severity of injuries to a pedestrian.
The patent, filed with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, describes a "device for a vehicle bow of a vehicle" that relates to the front spoiler. Essentially, Porsche explains how conventional front spoiler or bumper arrangements can injure a pedestrian, but its new design - whereby the front spoiler can move when it comes into contact with a pedestrian - will reduce the chances of a serious injury.
"The vehicle bow has a front spoiler element, characterized in that the device comprises a thrust body and an activation element for triggering a movement of the thrust body, wherein the thrust body is held in an initial position by means of a locking device, wherein in the event of a collision of the vehicle with a body, the activation element can be moved in such a way as to move in the direction of travel of the vehicle that the activation element acts on the locking device."
The wordy nature of patent filings and translation from German makes for a rather hazy explanation, but the gist of it is easy enough to grasp.
If the front spoiler/bumper section changes its shape advantageously as a collision takes place, the angle of impact on the body changes, and thereby the effect on specific joints and ligaments changes. Specifically, Porsche explains that the strain on the lower body and knees of the pedestrian can be reduced during the impact. Porsche also says that the design can be particularly useful if applied to an SUV or small SUV, such as the Macan, due to the unique shape of such a vehicle relative to other body styles.
While manufacturers like Volvo and Honda have envisioned a future with zero fatal collisions, the reality is that we're some way off from achieving that goal. For now, if cars can be improved to reduce pedestrian injuries if they do occur, it's worth investing in the technology.