Windshield Wipers in Science

24th Sep 2014

Have you ever thought about the scientific possibilities for windshield wipers? Typically, you don’t even consider your windshield wipers at all, until they stop working! Much less other possible uses or purpose for your wiper blades. But some scientists in Germany have.

Windshield Wipers in the Rain

Windshield Wipers

We all know how our windshield wipers work. When it rains (or snows), you flip on your wipers and they slide across the windshield, wiping off the moisture so that you can see where you are driving. When it rains harder, you turn up the speed so that the wiper blades work faster. If you have a newer vehicle, you might not even have to do that, as many come equipped with sensors that detect how hard it is raining and make the windshield wipers go the appropriate speed. But how can this relate to broader science?

Studying Rain Fall with Windshield Wipers

What if your windshield wipers could play a part in collecting data about rain falls? The more information we have about rain falls, the better equipped we can be to predict flooding and properly design drainage systems. And rain gauges in single locations can only measure in the area they are placed.

Ehsan Rabiei and his associated figured that the speed of a vehicles windshield wipers might be a good measure of how much rain is falling at what speed. The speed you run your windshield wipers correlates with how much rain is hitting the windshield. He saw the advantage in a moving measurement, because cars could give an average of rain fall amounts over a wider area.

The team came up with a way to predict the amount of rain from the speed of the windshield wipers. This was done last year in a controlled scientific lab with a stationary vehicle. To complete the study, they need to figure out how to factor in the speed of the vehicle, the surrounding landscape, and the wind, all factors that would affect how fast the rain would hit the windshield.

Even though the study showed that human controlled wipers would be more accurate in predicting rain falls, the automatic wipers would get rid of human error. Drivers can easily get distracted and forgetting to change the wiper blade speed. Rabiei’s research and experiments show that auto sensor operated windshield wipers paired with GPS devices could measure how much rain fell where with a reasonable amount of accuracy.

Who would have thought that your windshield wipers could potentially serve a bigger purpose than keeping your windshield clear and clean? After all, their initial purpose is very important, contributing to your safe driving conditions!

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