Theis one of those automotive-related things that has, well, not really changed much since it was invented. A motor makes the wipers move to provide drivers with a clear view ahead. Ta-da.
Tesla often takes a different approach to things, and the electric-car innovator may be keen on replacing the humble windshield wiper with lasers. In a patent application filed this past May and published with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Nov. 21, Tesla describes a "pulsed laser cleaning" for "debris accumulated" on glass, specifically for automotive application. It also mentions this could be used for "photo-voltaic" applications. That's fancy-speak for solar panels.
If thewas the future car the past promised but never delivered, laser wipers may be the icing on the cake. According to the patent, Tesla imagines the system would work with a beam optics assembly to produce a laser that hunts down debris. A detection circuitry would be responsible for telling the system where to fire and remove dirt, grime and droppings.
This same system would also take into account the laser's exposure level with pulses to ensure it didn't cut through the glass or harm occupants inside. Specifically, a calibration would "limit penetration of the laser beam to a depth that is less than a thickness of the glass article."
Such a system could do without chemicals and sprayers to take care of cleaning the windshield. Ditto for camera lenses and solar panels installed on a vehicle or structure. This system is also described to be smart enough to determine things that don't need neutralizing. We're talking about laser wipers; I can totally use the word "neutralizing."
The patent goes on to state that a system scan would be intelligent enough to recognize objects that don't need require laser cleaning. Things like a logo or sticker applied to the window are examples. Further, items like clothing or a sun visor flipped down wouldn't confuse the system, either, the patent attests.
As with a patent from any company, take it with a grain of salt. These documents are never indication that something is production bound. This is doubly true for this patent since this kind of technology is so new. But, it does perhaps show where Tesla engineers have their minds. Tesla didn't respond to a request for comment on the patent application.