There’s plenty to be said about the usability and safety of touchscreens, but one of the most common complaints about them, no matter how small or well-integrated, is that they tend to pick up fingerprints. And even if your screen looks relatively clean, all it takes is the right light to highlight just how smudged and dirty it really is. Sure, you can clean your screen, but that’s annoying to do as frequently as you probably should. Wouldn’t it be so much better if you never had to worry about fingerprint smudges at all?
Recently, Auto Evolution discovered that General Motors has filed a patent that would address that exact issue. Essentially, it’s a self-cleaning touchscreen. It’s just a patent, so we’ll probably have to wait a while to see it in a production car. But how great would it be to just hit a button (or more likely, dig through multiple menus on the touchscreen itself) and have all those fingerprints dirtying up the screen disappear? Short of a screen that doesn’t pick up fingerprints at all, that’s basically the dream.
This latest patent builds on technology that already exists and uses a photocatalytic coating that reacts with ultraviolet light to break doing oils on the screen. But that only works when there’s enough sun. At night or in other sunless conditions, you’re still stuck with a greasy touchscreen. GM’s solution is to embed violet micro-LEDs in the screen itself. When they’re turned on, the human eye won’t pick them up, but they’ll provide the UV light that’s necessary for the photocatalyst to cause the reaction that cleans the screen.
When it goes on sale, odds are good that it’ll only be offered on higher-end models first, but you never know. GM might decide that adding it to all of its touchscreens across the lineup will give it an advantage over rivals. We’re hoping that’s the direction it decides to go, but at the same time, we’re not getting our hopes up. Either way, we’re just looking forward to self-cleaning touchscreens.