One of the most ordinary looking component in a vehicle, yet critical to safety is the windshield wiper system. Irrespective of weather conditions, wipers play an important role in delivering a clear view of the road ahead or behind to the driver. Traditionally, much change hasn’t taken place in the architecture or functioning of wipers. That, however, is undergoing a significant change as companies try to find added efficiency in every possible measurable area.
Traditional wipers have usually had a single or dual motors attached to linkage arms connecting the two blades. This arrangement takes up a lot of space under the hood due to the presence of linkage arms extending from one end of the engine bay to the other. Wider the vehicle more is the area occupied and the weight of these linkages.
Bosch has now developed a new system design, which involves two separate motors, one on each end of the engine bay. The mechanical linkages are replaced by an electronic control unit (ECU), leading to a space saving of more than 75 % over the conventional design. The system is also lighter by more than one kg, translating into direct benefits for fuel economy. The sensor equipped motors and their movement is synchronised by the ECU and the blade can be programmed for parallel or opposed pattern sweep.
The system also offers manufacturing benefits for OEMs as the distance between the wiper blade and A-pillar can be customised on the production line itself. This also enables the blades to travel closer to the A-pillars without touching them, resulting in an increase in covered area. Owing to a smaller size, the system can be installed under the hood, leading to better safety for pedestrians too, in the event of an impact.
From a functionality perspective, the system has been designed to withstand the forces of nature and act as per the situation. Software’s inclusion means the system can easily be adapted for various vehicles. Equipped with an energy and thermal management device, the motors remains safe from overload without affecting the wiper’s functioning. A software based blockage recognition system detects the build-up of objects such as snow and sweeps only the amount of area required. In similar conditions, conventional wiper systems can stop functioning, leading to a safety hazard.
Another different yet innovative approach to wiper design is the AquaBlade by Valeo. The system is designed to spray the washer fluid evenly along the length of the wiper blade. The largest benefit of the system is improved visibility as the fluid is wiped immediately after being sprayed.
Conventional systems spray the fluid onto certain spots on the windshield, resulting in wastage. AquaBlade is claimed to reduce fluid consumption by about 50 %, making it possible to reduce the size of the fluid container and reduce the space underneath the hood. In addition, unlike conventional wiper systems, fellow motorists and in-cabin passengers are no longer sprayed by the fluid during motion or in case of the sunroof being open.
The precise spray is made possible by a sensor, which provides a controller with the wiper’s exact position. The controller is then able to calculate the quantity of fluid required at a given time. The fluid is sent to a tube embedded in the wiper arm with perforated openings via an electric motor. The spray outlets are only at the upper side of the blade and fluid is sprayed only when the wiper blade is following the sprayed fluid.
In search of efficiency, automakers aren’t missing out any chance to find added space within the engine bay, while reducing weight. Wiper systems are one such area where some companies have been able to find additional space and weight reduction. Although the space gained may be small, it can be used for improving the A/C, brake boosters, airbag modules or a head-up display. Putting the importance of any of these systems into perspective makes it clear how important it is for us to find efficiencies in every small component/ system such as the wipers.