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How would you like a self-cleaning car?

Tesla has filed for a patent of a system that can https://www.npr.org/2017/07/25/536835744/alabama-woman-stuck-in-nyc-traffic-in-1902-invented-the-windshield-wiper?t=1574842558075detect and clean dirt and debris on car glass and photovoltaic glass using laser pulses. Credit: Electrek

Our windshield wipers are old stuff, invented by Mary Anderson in 1902 and patented in 1903. They did evolve a a bit from the first version when they were operated by a handle inside the car. The blade material in particular has evolved significantly but you would agree the time is ripe for more radical evolution.

So does Tesla. They submitted a patent for a laser cleaning systems that comprises a detector of debris and generates laser pulses to remove dirt from the windshield.

The patent lists among the intended application the automatic cleaning of solar panel. This makes sense since they are mostly located on roofs, with difficult access for inspection and cleaning. Also, keeping them clean improves the yield since dirt decreases sunlight strength reaching the photovoltaic layer.

As for many patens it is difficult to predict when, and if, such an invention will reach the market. The idea is pretty good, and most likely technology is available. The question is on cost and on side effects. One is to answer the concern that laser pulses might be effective in removing dirt from a glass but what about their effect on my retina if it happens to be in the way? I can imagine some control system making sure that such a things cannot happen but that is surely going to add cost…

There have been alternative approaches to glass cleaning, like using nanotechnology -watch the clip. One company using nanotech to keep surfaces clean and make them hydrophobic is NanoFormula. Read their info sheet for car cleaning based on nanotechnology.

Another self cleaning tech available is based on using UV light contained in the sunlight spectrum (and that is present also in the nighttime darkness although we do not perceive it) to activate a special glass coating that through chemical reaction dissolve organic dirt (it does not clean paint spill on a window …).

Notice that the axiom stating that something has to get dirt in order to have something get clean still holds… The dirt removed from your car ends up somewhere else, but that is life!

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.