Technological advancements aren’t always measured by how many cool gadgets they bring. Sometimes, the biggest tech breakthroughs are those that reduce clutter. Take McLaren’s possible plan to cull windshield wipers from its cars, for example.
According to the CBC, the wiperless McLaren concept works in a deceivingly simple manner, if media speculation is to be believed: High-frequency soundwaves vibrate over the surface of the windscreen, thereby stopping anything — rain, snow, sleet, bugs, and perhaps bird excrement — from touching it. Given how fast any given McLaren can travel, that’s probably a good thing.
Quoting the source article, which ran in the Sunday Times in Britain last weekend:
According to McLaren, the firm that builds supercars for the road and Formula One cars for the track, the new system is adapted from fighter jets.
It is expected to use high-frequency sound waves similar to those used by dentists for removing plaque from teeth and by doctors for scanning unborn babies.
By in effect creating a force field, water, insects, mud and other debris will be repelled from the screen.
Though the full article at the Sunday Times isn’t available to non-subscribers, the CBC quoted McLaren Chief Designer Frank Stephenson as saying it “took a lot of effort” to get a military source to explain how fighter jets’ windscreens always stayed clear.
“I was told that it’s not a coating on the surface but a high frequency electronic system that never fails and is constantly active,” he said. “Nothing will attach to the windscreen.”
Stephenson would not provide any more specifics over fears that competitors might steal the idea.
That’s what patents are for, Mr. Stephenson. As the owner of two vehicles with some of the most upright, bug gut-splattering windshields in modern automobilia, for the love of God, please patent this technology and license it to OEMs who make cars we proles might actually afford!
Though Stephenson reportedly wouldn’t say how the system is proposed to work, speculation has been running rampant that it’s based on soundwaves being projected over the windscreen in such a manner that they create a force field over it. Tell me you wouldn’t be lining up for this technology if you could get it on a Chevrolet Impala or Honda Accord or what-have you. Similiarly, wise automakers would be lining up to license such a technology, once patented.
Or, as they say, not: It’s worth remembering the story of Bob Kearns, who invented the intermediate-speed windshield wiper, then successfully sued two of the Big Three for their implementation of the very idea he had personally pitched to Ford, GM, and Chrysler, all of whom rejected the idea. How’s that for patent infringement?
It’s not that I think there would be a wholesale raping of McLaren’s wiperless windshield system by other automotive OEMs without due process. I think Kearns taught a lot of OEMs that lesson in the ’90s. But McLaren has nothing but bragging rights to gain by being the only automaker to have this technology.
Sure, bragging rights mean something in a social media-fueled world. For that reason, I’d be okay if McLaren wanted to ride that wave for a year. But after that, I think it would really serve McLaren’s best interest to patent the heck out of this idea and pitch it at other automakers, Bob Kearns-style. McLaren wouldn’t have to build the wiperless windshield system for all those automakers who decided the forcefield-like sound barrier would be good for their cars. Rather, the brand could just request a royalty fee in exchange for granting license to the car companies. The potential for immense cashflow would surely be welcome at any automaker — but especially one as small and feisty as McLaren.