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McLaren may replace windshield wipers with sound

Sports car maker reportedly developing system that clears moisture using high-frequency sound waves.

By Douglas Newcomb Dec 16, 2013 2:46PM

Automakers are increasingly using technology to do away with traditional car parts ranging from rearview mirrors to mechanical steering linkage, in part to save weight and thereby increase fuel efficiency or performance. And also because, well, they can.

Now the high-end sports car manufacturer McLaren may be looking into doing away with windshield wipers. McLaren chief designer Frank Stephenson told the Sunday Times of London that the automaker is developing a system that can clear moisture and other material from a windshield by using high-frequency sound waves.

Stephenson explained that a transducer attached to the windshield could send high-frequency ultrasound across the surface to repel water -- whether as a liquid or a solid such as snow and ice -- as well as insects, debris and other, um, droppings.

The benefits of this technology, which was originally designed for use on military fighter jets, is that it supposedly improves visibility since moisture and other debris could be instantly repelled. Of course, it also improves aerodynamics -- and therefore fuel efficiency -- since it reduces drag. And it could mean almost instant removal of ice from windshields for those living in northern climes.

Stephenson didn’t divulge a time frame for when McLaren might add the technology to its production cars, but it isn’t the first time he has mentioned it. Stephenson discussed wiperless windshields during an interview with YouTube channel Drive last year.

Given that the windscreen wiper has been around for over a century with little change in design -- it was invented by Mary Anderson in 1903, after she noticed drivers sticking their heads out in rainstorms -- maybe it’s time for a technology update.

[Source: Sunday Times]

Dec 16, 2013 8:12PM

The most important question is where are they gonna stick the parking ticket?

Dec 16, 2013 4:20PM
Yes because I would be worried about fuel efficiency in my $250k car
Dec 16, 2013 4:23PM
Dec 16, 2013 4:02PM
The kids in my neighborhood have their boom box stereos going so loud it must be vibrating any water off the windshield.
Dec 16, 2013 6:03PM
So high frequency sound waves are going to clean off hundreds of bug guts spattered and then baked onto my windshield after a 300 mile road trip across Texas in August?
Dec 16, 2013 6:15PM
Dec 16, 2013 4:00PM
Sounds like a flash of genius to me.
Dec 16, 2013 4:24PM
Rain-X doesn't do much when you're stationary.
Dec 16, 2013 4:37PM
Awesome.  I like it if it works as intended and advertised.  Hopefully the burger looks like the one in the menu if you know what I mean.  As far as breaking and costing a high dollar amount for repairs, that just comes with the territory on any advancement in technology, or most anyway.  Technically your supposed to change wipers every year at say 20-30 bucks a pop.  So no more doing that and if the wiper motor breaks on yesterdays cars its probably 50-100 bucks for the motor and another for the labor if you don't do it yourself.  My point being is more than likely not as huge as a difference that you think and how often have you seen a transducer go bad?  If you don't know much about transducers, they are pretty solid.  They last in other words.  So awesome.  
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