/ Motoring

Windscreen wipers wiped out by McLaren

windscreen wiper

The windscreen wiper is dead. Or, at least, on the way out if you’ve read the latest news. Is there anything else you think car manufacturers should ditch as well?

British supercar and F1 supremo McLaren is working on a windscreen clearing system that will make old fashioned wipers obsolete.

It is likely to use high frequency sound waves to create a force field that will bounce water off the screen. Apparently it will work in a similar way to the tool a dentist uses to blast plaque off our teeth, and may be being adapted from systems already used on fighter jets.

It all sounds rather StarTrek-ish to me, but when you consider that the humble rubber strips on our car windscreens are actually 110 years old (American property developer Mary Anderson invented the manual windscreen wiper in 1903), then it’s high time they were reconciled to the archives.

Consigning car tech to history

That got me thinking about the other motoring-related items that have been consigned to the great big rubbish bin in the sky. I applaud the passing of many of them, in particular:

1. The manual choke. I have (not -too-fond) memories of using clothes pegs to keep the manual choke out on my ancient Morris Minor on icy-cold early morning drives.
2. Carburettors. Having to regularly manually reset the carbs on various old motors was a real chore that I never relished.
3. Tape players. The hours spent rewinding the tape back into a cassette with a pencil after it spewed out, and the remains of cassettes strewn around the countryside with tape flapping about in the wind – two good reasons why it’s good tape decks have died.

Things we need back

However, that doesn’t apply to everything that’s been lost. Spare wheels are the most obvious item I’d rather we kept fitted to cars.

And having just had a drive in the latest version of my six-year-old car, I have discovered that not all new tech is as easy to live with as the systems they replace.

The touchscreen multimedia system on the latest Nissan Note looks good, but it’s more time-consuming and complicated to do things. I’m talking about changing the radio station or switching off advanced safety systems like lane assist – a simple button for each of these would be so much better than having to navigate a sub-menu.

Looking to the future, we expect more cars to gain touchscreen technology, and become more integrated with things like smartphones. Let’s hope the designers work hard to ensure these ‘advances’ aren’t really a step backwards in convenience for motorists.

Are there some car things you’d like to be rid of, or are there things you think we should have kept? Will you miss windscreen wipers?

Dave says:
9 January 2014

touchscreens, how much more of a distraction do you need?

centre console screens – just no. Another massive distraction that becomes especially risky when in the dark – All you need is a satnav screen and by law it should be somewhere by the speedo, like the Ferrari 458 or Lexus LFA

I also think that satnav devices stuck in the middle of peoples windscreens should be banned. How on earth can you be confident you can see everything when there is a massive bright screen in the middle of your windscreen?

My ancient TomTom is fixed off the drivers-side quarter light (think that’s what its called – side window aft of the windscreen). Easy to see, not in the way, demountable so I can move it from car to car or use on foot. Why pay £00s for a fitted satnav that’s in the wrong position and expensive to fix if it goes wrong?
I would get rid of anything that makes changing a light bulb difficult – styled bumpers that need to be removed, engine compartment clutter that makes it difficult or impossible to get to the bulb holders. As it is a legal requirement to have appropriate lights all cars should be designed so that an ordinary driver can change bulbs.

Dave – My car has a fairly small touchscreen by modern standards but I don’t pay much attention to it when I’m driving. For some reason it is sometimes far too bright after starting the engine in the dark, but it does dim soon after. The manufacturer has had the sense to lock out some settings when the vehicle is moving and perhaps it would make sense to extend this to the touchscreen.

My sat-nav dims at night and the brightness can be adjusted. It is out of the line of sight and I rely mainly on the voice instructions. I don’t have much of a sense of direction and I am convinced that I would be a would be a worse driver without the sat-nav.