A car is viewed through a rain-covered windshield, with windshield wipers in the foreground. iStock
Elite sports car maker McLaren Automotive is working on a wiper-less car that uses jet-fighter technology to keep its windshield clear, the Sunday Times reports.
"The windscreen wiper is an archaic technology," Frank Stephenson, chief designer at McLaren, told the British newspaper in an interview confirming that the Surrey, U.K.-based company was working on an alternative that could start appearing in McLaren models in 2015.
McLaren makes Formula One racers and high-performance sports cars, such as the MP4-12C and the P1, which have a Canadian manufacturer's suggested retail prices of $239,400 and $1.19 million respectively.
Stephenson said he noticed the lack of wipers on some military aircraft, but it "took a lot of effort" to convince a military source to explain how such aircraft kept their windshields 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.
However, there has been widespread media speculation that the system would generate high-frequency sound waves or ultrasound, similar to those produced by devices that dentists used to remove tartar from people's teeth, or that are used to clean objects ranging from medical devices to jewelry.
A similar system to remove rain and snow from a windshield was patented by Tokyo-based Motoda Electronics Co. Ltd. in 1988. The device, called an "ultrasonic wiper," was to consist of vibration-generating oscillators on the top and bottom of the windshield designed to push rain and snow in particular directions. According to the Sunday Times, it is not thought to have gone into production.
Ultrasound waves can also remove dirt from surfaces that are covered in water, as the vibrations cause the production and collapse of tiny bubbles that lift up and peel away anything attached to the surface.
Traditional windshield wiper technology is more than a century old. The idea of using a rubber blade on the windshield to clear off rain and snow was conceived by an American woman named Mary Anderson in 1903. That was five years before Henry Ford created the Model T. Anderson received a patent for her device, which was controlled by a lever inside the car, in 1905.