The windshield wiper as we know it could soon be a device of the past — even though it’s currently as ubiquitous as the dial telephone once was that has now been relegated to the scrap heap of history.
We can thank an engineer at carmaker McLaren for this breakthrough, according to an exclusive story in the Sunday Times of London. Since the Sunday Times is behind a paid firewall, the following is from the Daily Mirror, another U.K. paper, based on the Sunday Times’ account.
"McLaren’s chief designer Frank Stephenson said: ‘It took a lot of effort to get this out of a source in the military. I asked why you don’t see wipers on some aircraft when they are coming in at very low speeds for landing.
“’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. Nothing will attach to the windscreen.’
"The pioneering system is similar to technology used by dentists to remove plaque from teeth and doctors scanning unborn babies."
Says another U.K. newspaper, The Daily Mail, "Paul Wilcox, professor of ultrasonics at Bristol University’s faculty of engineering, told The Sunday Times: ‘The obvious way of doing it is to have an ultrasonic transducer in the corner of the windscreen that would excite [sound] waves at around 30kHz to bounce across the windscreen.’ "
A story on the Fox News website adds: "[W]hile it sounds very advanced, one expert tells The Times that it could require only a small transducer to send [the] 30 kHz sound waves across the glass and cost as little as [$16-$17] per car."
McLaren is working on putting such devices on its cars in the future. Unfortunately for most of us, McLaren cars currently cost, at the least, more than $200,000.
Interestingly, according to The Daily Mail, the traditional windshield wiper was "invented by the American property developer Mary Anderson, who received a patent for her window cleaning device in 1903.
"The invention came about during a trip to New York City. It was raining heavily and Mrs. Anderson noticed that drivers had to open the windows of their cars in order to see out of them. She wanted to find a solution and invented a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that was operated by the driver from within the vehicle using a lever.
"At first the invention was highly critiqued as many claimed that the device would actually distract drivers, but by 1916 windscreen wipers had become standard on most vehicles."