Tesla has one simple request, and that is to have cars that have frickin' laser beams attached to their hoods. That request is now one step closer to being a possibility, as Musk's electric car company has obtained a patent for the use of laser beams to clean windshields.
As Electrek discovered, Tesla successfully obtained the patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week. The title describes the technology as "pulsed laser cleaning of debris accumulated on glass articles in vehicles and photovoltaic assemblies, implying that it's not just good for windows, but the Tesla's solar charging panels as well.
An associated illustration shows beams originating from two rear-facing points on the hood where wiper fluid nozzles would normally be, angled up towards the windshield. The patent goes on to describe the system as comprising "a beam optics assembly configured to emit a laser beam to irradiate a region on a glass article that is installed in the vehicle," debris detection circuitry, and control circuitry calibrated to limit the laser from going past the thickness of the glass and to "mitigate a risk of damage to different in-vehicle components beneath the region on the glass article."
Presumably, they'd want to limit damage to the occupants' eyes as well.
Delving further into the patent-speak, we find that the system consists of at least one camera (but could also include a dashcam rear-view camera or surround-view camera) to detect windshield grime, a transparent resistive coating overlaid on the windshield, and equipment to steer, focus, and emit the laser beam.
Or, you could just, you know, continue to use a piece of rubber attached to a motorized arm.
It's important to note that just because Tesla has the patent doesn't mean it's going to use it. The company also has a patent for electromagnetic wipers. This system would involve an electromagnetic block moving past magnet bars embedded around the windshield to drag a single blade across the full expanse of the windshield, like a giant squeegee.
For its part, Tesla says the wind resistance created by traditional wipers' mechanical components decreases vehicle range. The electromagnetic wiper seems at least a little more realistic than laser beams, but either system would add significant cost and complexity to the car.