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New technology may replace windscreen wipers in cars

The McLaren Group, Britain's most advanced automobile company and a leading designer of Formula 1 supercars, is planning to dispose of the windscreen wiper with new technology adapted from fighter jets.

The new system will use high-frequency sound waves similar to those used by dentists for removing plaque from teeth and by doctors for scanning unborn babies.

By in effect creating a force field, water, insects, mud and other debris will be repelled from the screen. As well as improving visibility, McLaren said that removing wipers could improve cars' fuel economy by eliminating the weight of wiper motors and streamlining the windscreen, 'The Times' reported.

It would also prevent the problem in cold weather of wiper blades freezing to the glass. The system is expected to be introduced in McLaren's range of cars, which cost between about 170,000 pounds and 870,000 pounds, but is unlikely to be ready before 2015.

While McLaren is reluctant to release details about its wiper-free windscreen, experts suggest that it may make use of ultrasound, waves outside the human hearing range, to create tiny vibrations on the windscreen.

These would in effect shake off any object that landed on the screen. It could cost as little as 10 pounds to mass-manufacture.

"The obvious way of doing it is to have an ultrasonic transducer in the corner of the windscreen that would excite waves at around 30kHz to bounce across the windscreen," said Paul Wilcox, professor of ultrasonics at Bristol University's faculty of engineering.

"You would not be able to see anything moving because the amplitude of vibration would be at the nanometre level," Wilcox said.

It is not the first time that such a design has been suggested. In 1986, Japan's Motoda Electronics Company patented an ultrasonic windscreen wiper system, which used ultrasonic waves to push rain off a windscreen. Motoda's patent is not thought to have gone into production.

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