Home Driverless Cars Toyota Patent Envisions Autonomous Trips to the Car Wash

Toyota Patent Envisions Autonomous Trips to the Car Wash

by Charles Choi
Toyota Research Institute’s Platform 4 (P4) automated driving test vehicle. Courtesy: Toyota.

Autonomous vehicles may one day drive themselves to a car wash when they think they need cleaning, according to a new patent application from Toyota.

On Christmas Eve, the United States Patent and Trademark Office revealed that Toyota had applied for a patent that detailed how a driverless car might compute when it needs a wash.

Basically, the autonomous vehicle will keep track of the amount of distance traveled and time elapsed since it’s last wash. It also will remember how often it drove on unpaved roads, which are presumably dusty or muddy, and how often it drove in rainy or snowy weather, which can splatter and stain surfaces.

When the autonomous vehicle deems it might be dirty enough to need cleaning, it can then automatically drive itself  “to a washing position of an automatic car-washing machine,” the patent noted.

What happens when you might not want to rely on a computer’s judgment about car cleanliness? You can also make a reservation for a wash in advance so the autonomous vehicle can get a polishing when you like.

This innovation is not limited to personal cars, Toyota said. Ride-sharing fleets may also seek out car washes. Instead of waiting until it is dirty, a shared car “can be washed before it is provided to the next user.”

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