Windshield wipers are archaic. Why no advancements?

Was raining on my drive to work this morning. Turned wipers on. And then it dawned on me that windshield wipers don’t work all that well. High speed = better performance, but you’re looking at the wipers all the time. Low speed = less performance, but you don’t have to look at the wipers as much. And all too often, the wipers are old, and performance suffers as a consequence.

With all the advancements made in technology for motor vehicles, I was wondering why no one has invented a high tech alternative to windshield wipers. Like a special glass that you can easily see through even when it’s raining. Or some way to keep the rain drops off the glass (electrostatic repulsion?) in the first place.

(FTR, I have tried Rain-X[sup]TM[/sup]. Didn’t like it.)

Cost and proven tech mostly. Wipers work. If they get old and stop working efficiently then that’s on the car’s owner.

Yeah, wiper motors almost never go out, and replacing the blades is about the cheapest and easiest thing you can do on a vehicle these days. New blades for my truck are about ten bucks for the expensive kind and take all of ninety seconds per pair to change. If they had a high tech alternative it would cost at least ten times that and you wouldn’t be able to do it for yourself.

I’ve been a Rain-X user since the early 70’s and find that it works best at high speeds where the airflow sweeps the drops off the glass. It’s performance also varies with windshield shape. Some are more aerodynamically smooth than others.

Anyone beside me remember wipers powered by vacuum motor? They used intake manifold vacuum to power the wipers. Worked pretty well until you went to pass in the rain and opened the throttle. The wipers just about stopped when you needed them the most.

I change blades about every 4-5 months and have few issues with their performance. Keep the glass clean and clean the blades themselves as well. It makes a difference.

Go back 10-20-30-40 years and look at the state of windshield wipers then. There have been advancements, they’ve just been in the quality of windshield wipers.

Why? Isn’t every 4-5 years more typical?

I don’t know about years but I replace mine every November when I put on my snow tires and I consider that borderline excessive.

First, Rain-X is awesome.

Second, you might need a new set of wipers.

As far as new tech, I’d like to try a high pressure air blower. Especially if used on a Rain-Xed windshield.

that would require either magic, or a hydrophobic coating. Like Rain-X, which is a polysiloxane (silicone) “wax.” Unfortunately because of water’s surface tension, the best you can do with a transparent coating is get it to “bead” and slide off of the surface as with any waxed, shiny surface. Actual water repelling coatings like NeverWet are not transparent because part of their effectiveness comes from a non-smooth surface texture.

I don’t see how you could apply a strong enough electrostatic field to the windshield without it just discharging into the car’s (grounded) body. Or yours, if you happened to touch it at the wrong time.

basically, wipers are cheap, they exist, and they work. and I’m not sure I understand your point about “looking at the wipers all of the time.” your vision should be focused at what’s down the road, not on the wipers themselves.

Yes, I’ve found that Rain-X makes a much-appreciated difference at highway speeds, where it’s most needed.

Talk to these kids.

Looks like Kia is working on it (and working with those kids).

Arthur C Clarke mentions in his book “The Ghost From The Grand Banks” about some technology of the future the novel time period is set in including windshields that repel rain with high frequency vibrations instead of wipers. When the book was written in 1990, the plot revolved around raising the two sections of the Titanic during the 100 year anniversary of it’s sinking.

I change my wipers when they seem to be losing their effectiveness. For me, that’s about once a year. I can’t imagine going 4-5 years on the same wipers.

Honestly, I just don’t see that air blade system as viable. What is a jet of air going to do about a the huge blob of bird crap that was deposited in the center of your viewing area while the car was parked? It’s now dried, crusty and impossible to budge without physical scraping. The other day, driving through the lowlands by the Platte river, some extremely well fed insect met it’s messy fate on my windshield, leaving a blotch over two centimeters across. I’m supposed to trust an air jet to cope with that?

One thing I will lament is the loss of refillable wiper blades. Now we have to buy the whole blade and not just the rubber wipey part. When I had cars with rear wipers, I did figure out how to disassemble the wiper and refill it with a piece of the rubber from the old front wipers. It worked great and I got three refills out of one old insert. It does seem that there are probably better polymers out there to make the blades out of so they would last longer.

I bought some NeverWet to experiment with. It worked great until I tried a bit of soapy water on the treated surface. Any soapy or oily substance totally ruins its repellent properties. Recently, I have seen the stuff in Dollar Tree stores. I wonder why.

I’m guessing the OP need to change his wipers. I change my once a year at the start of the rainy season.

Clearly, even if they get the air blade thing to work for rain, physical wipers are still going to be necessary for anything else that gets through, like insects and bird shit, or when a vehicle in an adjacent lane or going the opposite direction hits a puddle and dumps a wave of water right onto your windshield. So it would seem to not really be a complete replacement for wipers, but rather an alternative to physical wipers for rain only.

You could well be right but I’m not seeing the upside.

The upside is car makers get to squeeze another few hundreds bucks out of customers for this New Advanced Technology! that will make your neighbors look and go “Oooo!”

Kia mentioned it, but there’s no indication that they or anyone else are working on it or with those kids. The scale model seen in your first link seems to work, but it’s not likely to scale up to full size very well, at least not without requiring a lot of power.