As it continues to improve its sensor technology to help its vehicle understand its surroundings and respond quickly and safely to unfolding events, it's also been considering how to deal with unavoidable collisions, whether it's with a "soft" human that could easily sustain an injury, or a harder object like another vehicle. A patent recently awarded to Waymo offers some insight into how the company is approaching the issue. In Waymo's own words: "The vehicle may contain tension members that are arranged so that a change in tension across one or more of the tension members will alter the rigidity of the vehicle's surface. The vehicle may identify and respond to a potential collision by altering the tension that is applied to one or more tension members, thereby altering the rigidity of the vehicle's surface."
Looking to ever expand ways to deliver goods to its customers, Amazon has patented a way to allow its drones to deliver packages without ever having to land. The patent would not only provide a safe distance between the UAVs and the people receiving the packages, but also cut down on noise pollution, BizJournals noted. Bezos, now the world's third-richest man with an estimated fortune of $83.3 billion according to Forbes, first showed off Amazon's drone delivery unit in a Dec. 2013 interview on "60 Minutes." It recently filed patents for a beehive-like structure that would allow drones to pick up and drop off packages.
Tired of searching far-flung corners of a big box retail store for that item you want? Walmart may have a high-tech solution – the retail giant has filed a patent to use drones within its stores. The patent application describes "dispatching an airborne drone to an item located within a retail shopping facility, securing that item of inventory to the airborne drone, and then directing the airborne drone to carry the item of inventory to a delivery area located within the retail shopping area." While it is not clear whether delivery drones will ever make it into Walmart stores, the patent filing comes at a time when the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company is looking to increase its level automation.