Design & Technology
The disappearing act – Windshield wipers of the future August 29th, 2017
Invented in 1903 and first implemented in motor vehicles in 1916, windshield wipers (or windscreen wipers) have now faded into the background as ordinary and commonplace parts of a car. While windshield wipers have played a significant and enduring role for over a century, even they are subject to some major transformations in today’s era of technological advancement.
The technology behind windshield wipers has not changed in any major way over the past 100 years, so they are not without areas that require fine tuning. One of the biggest complaints about wiper performance is their tendency to streak and squeak. Rubber wiper blades have a limited service life and sometimes aren’t able to perform to their fullest during harsher weather conditions. When overworked, wipers do not come into contact with the windshield properly, resulting in unpleasant squeaking noises and unsightly streak marks.
Ironically, when wipers are not well cared for, they can cause in the very problems that they were created to prevent. The mechanics of wipers work by moving back and forth across the windshield and in front of the driver’s line of sight. If poorly maintained or positioned, wipers are likely to be detrimental to the field of vision, especially in harsh weather conditions. Therefore, when it comes to wiper and wiper blade maintenance, it is important to stay hyper vigilant to prevent any unwanted risky situations on the road.
In order to make up for these limitations, automobile companies are looking for ways to perfect the science of windshield wiping once and for all. Surprisingly, this may involve removing the wiper system completely! By refining and enhancing the windshield itself, automakers are finding new and innovative ways to clear away debris and weather elements.
One kind of windshield prototype currently in development utilizes nanotechnology. Different types of nanoparticles are applied to the windshield in multiple layers to filter the sun’s UV rays, repel water and even detect and eradicate dirt. This innovative nanoparticle-treated glass will provide an open unobstructed front view for drivers while eliminating any external substances that may disrupt vision and airflow.
Ultrasonic Waves and Vibration
Another method being developed and tested involves soundwaves. Using ultrasound frequencies to send vibrations across the windshield, developers are working to create a force field that flows over the windshield. The result is an invisible barrier that prevents anything from settling on the glass.
While currently still under development, this method may be a more efficient and low energy alternative to windshield wipers and a more simple option to nano-coating.
Similar to the sound waves, another alternative design calls for a strong stream of air to be blown over the windshield. Developed by two high school inventors from the United States, the idea requires a steady and even current of air to flow out from nozzles placed at the bottom and sides of the windshield. The stream of high pressure air will adjust according to the speed of the vehicle and will sweep away any external elements that might accumulate during the drive.
Like many leading automobile brands, Kia’s windshield wipers are equipped the most modern and up-to-date rain-sensing and automatically operated wipers. However, with the trend of car silhouettes placing more emphasis on simple lines and aerodynamics, there is quite a high possibility that windshield wipers may disappear for good in the future. Adhering to Peter Schreyer’s design philosophy, ‘the simplicity of the straight line,’ Kia may not be far behind as well.
What do you think of losing windshield wipers for good? Tell us your thoughts in the comment box below!