General Motors has patented a system to make smudged and messy touchscreens a thing of the past.
Patented system – filed in the United States and reported by autoevolution – invisible to the naked eye, but requires fundamental changes to the way touchscreens are designed.
Instead of red, green and blue LEDs that work at different brightness levels, the self-cleaning screen will feature a fourth pixel capable of emitting invisible ultraviolet light.
The surface of the screen will feature a transparent layer of “photocatalyst”. A new atlas suggested it might be titanium dioxide, which researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute recently used to create self-cleaning solar panels.
When it is exposed to UV light (from the sun in the case of solar panels, or additional LEDs GM suggests) the titanium dioxide begins to attract moisture from the air.
That creates a thin layer of water on the screen, and begins to oxidize to kill organic matter – breaking down dirty, greasy fingerprints. Turn off the UV lamp and the surface reverts to a normal waterproof touchscreen.
It’s unclear whether the UV lights in GM’s system will be operated by the owner or whether the car will automatically activate its screen cleaner at set times.
There is no guarantee this technology will ever see a production car.
It’s common for automakers to patent speculative technologies that don’t necessarily have easy production applications, though GM has expanded its scope beyond the automotive world to include “computers, mobile devices, televisions, kiosks, cash registers and home appliances”.