California-based EV darling Tesla has been awarded yet another innovative patent, this time with the intention of developing a laser-based windscreen cleaning system.
Keen-eyed Tesla enthusiasts and bloggers regularly trawl through obscure US databases in an effort to obtain the latest news regarding the company’s plans. Recently, Fred Lambert from Electrek discovered that the United States Patent and Trademark Office had granted the company yet another patent, one that was originally filed back in late-2019.
The recently approved patent application is titled “Pulsed laser cleaning of debris accumulated on glass articles in vehicles and photovoltaic assemblies” and, if that wasn’t clear enough, is literally referring to using lasers as a replacement for traditional windscreen wipers.
The patent describes in detail the vision of using lasers to clean a vehicle’s windscreen, wherein “a beam optics assembly that emits a laser beam to irradiate a region on a glass article of the vehicle, debris detection circuitry that detects debris accumulated over the region, and control circuitry.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the patent does not speak at all to the potential interaction between the lasers and a driver’s vision. But it appears as if the specific “pulsed” design is specifically intended to prevent the laser from passing through the glass.
According to the patent’s abstract, the “control circuitry” will ensure that “the exposure level is controlled based on pulsing the laser beam at a calibrated rate that limits penetration of the laser beam to a depth that is less than a thickness of the glass article”.
One also assumes that the windscreen itself would be treated in some way so as to ensure that no visual artifacts resulting from the lasers are able to interfere with or distract the driver’s vision.
While the granting of this particular patent adds yet another innovative tool to Tesla’s toybox, it appears as if lasers are not going to be the company’s first choice for windscreen cleaning.
The Cybertruck prototype did not have any windshield wipers – which led some to assume that the company’s planned laser windscreen cleaning system would be used – but Tesla is also reportedly developing a new electromagnetic windshield wiper system, according to yet another 2019-filed patent.
In an effort to minimise the power drain needed to power the traditional sliding motion of windscreen wipers – which, according to Tesla’s patent filing, “creates significant friction, resulting in the need for additional power to be supplied by the in-vehicle battery, which decreases vehicle range” – a single wiper blade is propelled across the windscreen by an electromagnetic moving block.
Whether or not any or all of these innovative ideas will ever see the light of day, only time will tell. Companies with the research and development resources of Tesla routinely add patents like a teenager collects cricket cards, building up a reserve of potential options that never need be applied, or which spur further innovation and development.