We see new advancements in self-driving car technology pop up on a regular basis, but despite the progress and billions invested, many things stand in the way of a future where cars drive themselves. There’s the issue of safety, along with the questionable nature of trusting a virtual chauffeur to navigate roads filled with human drivers, and that’s on top of the countless legal hurdles that autonomous car makers will face once the technology is ready for commercial use. Still, we can all rest easy at night knowing that messy bird poop won’t stand in the way of progress.
Waymo — the Google-owned self-driving tech startup currently suing Uber and partnering with Lyft in hopes of dominating the autonomous car market — has a really slick way of dealing with the grime that can obscure the view of its high-tech lidar sensors. The sensors, which serve as a self-driving cars electronic eyes and must remain clear of dirt, debris, and bird poop, actually have adorable little built-in wiper blades. Check it out:
As you can see, the wipers look just like the kind you’d find on a car windshield, only much smaller and designed to spin around the lidar hub in a circle. The result is a perfectly clean viewing window for the sensor’s lenses, and a self-driving car that can actually see where it’s going.
What the demo doesn’t necessarily answer is how such a system would function in a cold climate. During the winter, snow and ice tend to make wipers almost useless, and the prospect of getting out of your car every ten minutes to wipe frozen slush off of a lidar sensor doesn’t sound like the ideal autonomous driving experience.