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New Technology to Replace Windshield Wipers

windshieldsThe very first “horseless carriages” in Houston did not come equipped with windshield wipers for a very simple reason — they had no windshields. Drivers wore goggles to protect their eyes from dust, which was a common problem in an era when few roadways were paved. However, this solution offered no protection from bugs, rain or wind, so automakers soon began to add innovations such as windows, roofs and windshields. These features made it easier for drivers to operate their vehicles in inclement weather, but they also spawned the need for windshield wipers and Houston auto glass repair.

The first windshields began appearing in the U.S. around 1919. Early wipers were operated by a hand crank that could be turned by the driver or a passenger. Automatic wiper systems began appearing soon after, but other than a few refinements, such as intermittent wipers and variable speeds, the basic principles have remained the same.

Recently, however, McLaren Automotive announced that it is developing a new technology that has attracted great interest among Houston windshield replacement firms. Instead of relying on wipers that sweep across the glass, the new technology uses ultrasonic waves to clear water droplets and debris from the glass. This same principle has been applied to military aircraft for years, and the results have been excellent.

Although McLaren has been understandably guarded when describing exactly how the system will work, engineers outside of the company have been busily postulating theories. Over the past few decades, several patents have been issued for wiperless ultrasonic systems using different techniques. McLaren will likely choose the best features from each to develop its system, but it may consist of a series of sensors and transducers strategically placed around the windshield or sandwiched between panes of glass. The vibration of the sound waves could be adjustable, allowing sensors to automatically detect the difference between a drop of rain and a bird dropping, for example, and boost output to dislodge larger objects.

Despite the intriguing possibilities offered, however, the new technology may not be available to auto manufacturers and Houston auto glass repair shops anytime soon. Federal safety regulations require all vehicles to have a system for wiping windshields that has a minimum of two speeds or frequencies and is power-driven. Technically, ultrasonic windshield systems do not meet this standard. Obtaining a change in the regulations would require filing a petition requesting a change — which has not yet been done — or waiting until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can conduct its own research and collect sufficient data to determine that such a change is needed.

Although it might sound far-fetched to think that Houston windshield repair firms — as well as U.S. automakers — may be denied access to McLaren’s new technology, similar precedents exist. For example, Audi cannot offer its Matrix LED headlights on vehicles sold in the U.S. although they are available in other countries. The system is comprised of multiple LED bulbs that brighten or dim individually according to what sensors and cameras detect in front of the vehicle. U.S. federal regulations require vehicles to be equipped with headlights that have dedicated low- and high-beam settings. Since Audi’s system is variable rather than dedicated, it does not meet the requirements as stated in the regulation.

McLaren still has much work ahead to bring its “ultrasonic force field” to the U.S. market. The first step, of course, is to perfect the technology. The wiperless system is still a work in progress, and as yet the company has not held a public unveiling to demonstrate precisely how the technology will work. Until the system is fully developed, the company cannot state with any accuracy how economical the new technology will be, which is certain to influence how wide-spread its acceptance will be. Lastly, someone — either McLaren or the automotive industry — will likely have to campaign to have federal regulations changed to allow U.S. vehicles to utilize the new technology.

Despite the challenges, however, there is a distinct possibility that American drivers may have the new technology available within the next few years. For all drivers who have experienced the reduced visibility offered by streaked windshields, been frustrated by the need to repeatedly change wiper settings to adjust to changes in precipitation or endured the annoying noise made by wipers in use, McLaren’s system could be a welcome change.

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