Vehicles | January 3, 2021 6:00 am

Toyota Files Patent For Driverless Cars to Know When They’re Dirty

At which point they would head to a nearby car wash

Toyota logo
The logo of Toyota is seen on a displayed car at the company's car showroom in Tokyo on November 6, 2020.
PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of driverless cars? Perhaps it’s a futuristic version of a taxi that can get you from place to place without a human behind the wheel, or something used for deliveries. It might even be a vehicle designed to take auto racing places it’s never been. A new patent filing by Toyota suggests a much less overtly flashy feature could be in the cards for driverless cars — albeit one that might keep them looking great on the outside.

At Jalopnik, Elizabeth Blackstock offers an in-depth look at the patent filing, which is for a system via which driverless cars could determine that they were dirty, and then head to a nearby car wash to get cleaned up. It’s the autonomous vehicle equivalent of realizing it’s time to hop in the shower.

As Blackstock explains, the system described in the patent senses when a car has driven on a dirty road or in bad weather. It then contacts a car wash, which lets the car know when it can come in for a cleaning. The system also allows drivers to opt out of a particular wash, if time is of the essence.

It’s an intriguing look at the thinking behind this system — and something that could radically change one of the central tasks related to car ownership. And it’s all being done by making driverless cars a bit more self-aware in an unexpected way.

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