/ 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?


The replacement for windscreen wipers may be effective, but has anyone considered the possible effects of ultrasonic frequencies on animals, including humans?

What I would like to consign to history is the current trend of festooning cars with strings of LEDs as brake lights, indicators and daytime running lights.


I have an indicator on my car that tells me when a bulb has gone. That’s its just its gone, no clue as to which one, where etc, It might as well not be there.

Last time I bough a new car ( back in 2008 ) I was surprised that it didn’t have digital radio. Do they have that now ?

I’d be impressed if I had a car that could change traffic lights in my favour especially late at night when there’s no one waiting at any other signal. Oh h**l lets have that for during the day too. I can’t wait for smart traffic lights.

The gadgets I love and must have in any future car are in no particular order, Power assisted steering, cruise control, ABS.


It will never catch on. It may work on fighter jets, but they do not usually have vehicles coming the other way, swamping the windscreen with dirty water. In the floods, you can see the deluge approaching, and put on the wipers before it hits, so you are blind for only a few seconds. Waiting for ultrasonics to work would take ages, which, assuming everyone at that moment had no vision, would be interesting. Might work, in tandem to wipers, not instead of!


Just because its over 100 years old doesnt necessarilly mean its time to come up with another idea. The quality of wiper blades has improved alot in that time. If it aint broke dont fix it. However, having said that I did have a wiper motor fail on a Citroen once. The cheapest quote to replace was something well in excess of £200 if I recall correctly. So, if they would like to come up with something new which isnt going to cost the earth to replace when it eventually fails I’m all for it.

Mike Robbins says:
27 December 2013

Strongly agree with this article; some innovations are good, some are not. Others are nice to have on a new car, but are a pain for secondhand buyers, because they go wrong. Some years ago I was appalled to have to pay 250 quid to repair an electric sunroof I never used, and did not want. Touchscreens are also likely to die on the last owners, sending the car to the scrapheap. What really would be nice, would be an a la carte options list.

My next car will probably be a small one. On a small car I shan’t need central locking or electric windows, and may not even want power steering; these things add weight and complexity, and will go wrong when the car gets old. I am happy with a cheap aftermarket satnav. I will want a stereo, but some people won’t even want that; in future, they will prefer to get their infotainment and satnav from their phone or tablet, via Bluetooth. But I will definitely want aircon, and I don’t want to pay for all the above junk in order to get it.

I remember that, over 40 years ago, Ford used to advertise its much-loved Cortina Mk II with the slogan, “Our salesman won’t ask, when do you want it. He’ll ask, how do you want it?” Back to the future please.


a 1600 E will do very nicely thankyou

Peter McA says:
27 December 2013

Most, or all, cars now keep the dipped headlights on along with the high beam.The large very bright patch of road close to the car is impressive and comforting but it reduces the driver’s ability to see detail or movement far ahead where the main beam is trying to illuminate. This is true for all drivers because the excessively bright area close ahead causes the driver’s pupils to dilate, reducing the depth and sharpness of his focus and making the distant road relatively darker.
I’d like to have the option of turning off the dipped lights when the main beam is on.

Peter McA says:
27 December 2013

I understand that the MOT requires the dipped beam to remain on along with he high beam, possibly because the dipped lights are usually the outer pair and therefore important in indicating vehicle width. But this could be better arranged.