These Smart Wipers Activate Before Water Hits the Windshield

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【Summary】Semcon developed ProActive Wipers (PAW) to help drivers gain confidence when overtaking large vessels on the road.

Michael Cheng    Feb 20, 2017 5:38 AM PT
These Smart Wipers Activate Before Water Hits the Windshield

Overtaking or passing large trucks is one of the most intimidating driving maneuvers to execute on fast-moving highways. This becomes even more unnerving when road conditions are wet or visibility is limited to 10 feet or less. Some drivers find such executions so terrifying that they freeze up during the maneuver, which could increase the chances of collisions or road accidents.

The main issue with passing trucks in wet conditions is unpredictability. When you're behind a huge vessel, the car is shielded from rain, oncoming winds and other natural influences that leading vehicles face. The moment the non-leading car occupies the vacant lane; it is no longer protected by the truck. This phenomenon is difficult to prepare for, because drivers don't find out what's on the other side until they have fully committed to the maneuver.

To ease difficulties when passing a truck in rainy conditions, a Sweden-based startup has developed a smart wiper that activates autonomously without help from the driver. Read on to learn more about the revolutionary car accessory.

Smart Wipers

Semcon developed ProActive Wipers (PAW) to help drivers gain confidence when overtaking large vessels on the road. The device works by sensing rain or splashing conditions using a radar, camera and other mainstream sensors available in today's smart cars. When the components sense such elements, the system activates the vehicle's wipers on the highest possible setting. It is important to consider that PAW does all this before water actually hits the windshield. As a result, one's vision is never obstructed during the maneuver. This feature also works when a car is passing a truck in the next lane (not overtaking). In such cases, it is common for water to splash from the tires of the vessel, onto the windshield of the vehicle.

"Most of us have experienced that scary moment when you're trying to overtake a heavy truck on the highway under wet conditions," Magnus Carlsson, head of autonomous driving at Swedish tech product development company Semcon, told Digital Trends.

Applications and Benefits

The company currently has a patent pending for PAW. Semcon is in the process of ironing out the kinks (mostly software bugs with focus on preventing false positives) and is aiming to launch a market-ready version this year. The best part is, today's latest cars already come with the necessary hardware for PAW. This would allow compatible vehicles to take a "plug and play" approach to installation. The core components required for the device includes a forward-facing camera, radar and rain sensor. Each piece plays a crucial role in the proactive system: the camera tracks and identifies the movement of nearby trucks, the radar gauges the distance between the car and vessel during the maneuver and the rain sensor confirms that there is a real threat to mitigate before activating the wipers.

"The best use-case for this would be if it's been raining and isn't anymore, or it's raining slightly, but the road is still very wet. That's when you can run into problems," said Carlsson.

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