Google’s self-driving cars may also be self-cleaning.
The company appears to be interested in equipping its cars with a self-cleaning system that would wipe debris off the car’s sensors, according to a patent the company was awarded on Thursday.
You see, Google’s self-driving cars are decked out with all kinds of sensors. They have cameras, radar sensors, and laser-based sensors known as Lidar. All of these sensors let the car see the world around it so that it can safely navigate from point A to point B.
To help keep these sensors intact, they are often encased in some sort of compartment. In Google’s case, it keeps some of its sensors protected by a glass dome. You can see the dome on top of the Google car in the picture below.
The problem, though, is that the compartments where these sensors are located can also get dirty, possibly causing them to malfunction. And trust me, nobody wants malfunctioning sensors on a self-driving car.
So Google is proposing using an automatic wiper system that can detect when the dome is dirty and begin a self-cleaning process.
The wiping system includes multiple wipers that are capable of rotating 360 degrees around the dome protecting the sensors. According to the patent, the system could also have some sort of wiper fluid that is activated along with the wipers, so that whatever is dirtying up the dome can quickly be clean off.
While a self-cleaning system might seem like a minor thing, it’s actually a pretty significant design detail that demonstrates just how fragile self-driving car systems can be.
Tech companies and automakers have made a lot of progress in developing self-driving car technology, but when it comes to getting self-driving cars on real roads in real-world scenarios, there are still a few kinks to figure out.