Create a free Industrial Equipment News account to continue

How to Ruin a Self-Driving Car

What’s the harm in wanting to have a clean vehicle?

In the Midwest, the snow melting during the winter-to-spring shift means there’s nothing more reliable than a ten-car-line at the carwash on your lunch break.

But besides giving up half you day waiting, what’s the harm in wanting to have a clean car? Well, the answer to that might depend on whether you have a self-driving vehicle.

CNN recently called carwashes “a nightmare” for self-driving cars, and here’s why: it seems the traditional car wash – with its massive automated brushes – are too harsh when applied to a vehicle whose exterior is covered in sensors. The result of the aggressive wash could actually mess with their accuracy or calibration, which would jeopardize the ability of your autonomous vehicle to, say, keep you from hitting other cars or pedestrians.

Think you can just touchless? Think again, because the other issue is with residue. Water or soap droplets left behind could effectively “blind” your vehicle, which is why it’s recommended that autonomous vehicles only be washed by hand. But you’d better be prepared to commit to a regular schedule. Apparently, these types of cars need much more frequent cleaning than your standard “every so often when it needs it” approach. Everything from bugs to mud could impede the accuracy.

The report outlines several methods carmakers are utilizing to keep the sensors free from impediments including using microfiber cloths and fluids like glass cleaner, rubbing alcohol and good old-fashioned water.

But if sensors are this sensitive to fairly commonplace road shrapnel, how do you know when your vehicle is in desperate need of an immediate wash? This might be why some companies are looking to innovate beyond the hand wash.

CNN says that GM is working on technology that helps self-driving car sensors self-clean, and so is a startup called Seeva, which uses heated windshield washer fluid to dislodge ice or dirt.

Meanwhile, just drive down roads with no bugs, mud, dirt, snow or water, and you’ll be fine.

More in Product Development