Once upon a time, in a history not that far removed from present day, automakers descended into design madness by equipping all of their vehicles with federally-mandated rubber bumpers wide enough for a Boeing to land. It was a dark time that eventually saw the svelte chrome bumpers of old banished for good. Now it looks like one MIT graduate would like to see similar technology come to small cars in the form of side bumpers.

Steve Shoap has patented a system that he believes will allow manufacturers to build lighter, safer small cars in an effort to increase fuel efficiency. His system involves incorporating substantial bumpers into a vehicle's side as well as a new "crumple box" that will help absorb and dissipate the energy from a side-impact collision.

Shoap's only prototype isn't exactly pretty, but he's confident the tech will allow the use of lighter-weight B-pillars and doors. If you're thinking those rods built into the side of the cardboard car above look like they'd up your chance of being impaled four-fold, don't worry, the inventor says that the bumpers would bend up and out of the way in the event of an accident. Color us skeptical.

[Soure: Autopia]