Home » New Patent Shows How Dirty Teslas Could Clean Themselves

New Patent Shows How Dirty Teslas Could Clean Themselves

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Tesla says that on August 8th it’s going to unveil a robotaxi. For it to work as intended, it’ll need to do a lot including drive itself. The automaker has been working, with dramatically varying degrees of success, on autonomous driving for years. A new patent application suggests that it’s been cooking up something else that’ll go hand-in-hand with robotaxis. They and other Tesla models could end up cleaning themselves. 

First spotted by X account SETI Park, a patent application that dates back to February of 2023 “presents a system and method for automatically sanitizing enclosed spaces, particularly vehicle interiors, that can be shared by multiple people.” If granted, such a system would be the first of its kind but before that happens, Tesla will have to ensure it can accomplish a few vital things. 

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The name of the invention is “Controlling environmental conditions in enclosed spaces.” Filed with the World Trade Organization, application WO2023/163943A1 requires that the car can detect when the interior is dirty. Then, it leverages ultraviolet radiation, heat, microwaves, and several other methods to do the cleaning. Consider this a new link between Teslas and self-cleaning ovens. 

Why does it appear as though this is specifically built with the Tesla Robotaxi in mind? The application alludes to it. “[A]n automobile providing transportation throughout the day for multiple persons provides lower transportation costs and environmental footprint than an automobile used by only one person for personal commute,” it says. It also includes lines about re-sanitization after passenger disembarkation. 

Certainly, it could end up employed in various models depending on how the system functions in its final production form. Notably, none of the self-driving taxi businesses currently running in the USA have a similar system for interior cleaning. That might be surprising since it’s a problem that some media outlets like Slate highlighted all the way back in 2018. 

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“With companies like Uber, Waymo, and Lyft planning to launch their first generation of self-driving cars as shared taxis, it’s not yet clear who or what will be there to clean up the half-drunk Starbucks cup, wipe down the mystery stickiness on the seat, or handle even less hygienic situations. It’s not just a trivial matter: it’s an issue of sanitation and rider well-being—one more pressing for future users than you might imagine.”

Ford already rolled out a similar system early on in the pandemic.

Frankly, a car that could clean itself would be a benefit for both taxi and personal vehicle users. While far from a production feature, Tesla does appear to have really thought out just about every way it could clean the inside of a car, including by parking it in maximum sunlight. 

How Does It Work?

Img 5018As mentioned, the patent leverages several technologies. It includes using the HVAC system to heat the cabin up enough to sanitize some surfaces. The same theory goes for some surfaces that Tesla plans to physically heat up to clean. UV lighting and steam generators are also included in the system. The car(s) will also be capable of moving the seats to provide additional access to tight spaces. There’s also a way to move the touchscreen so that it’s in more direct sunlight, which has a sanitizing effect as well. Driving into a position with more sunlight is on the table too. 

Hurdles Ahead

 

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Before any of this actually makes it into your next taxi or car, Tesla has some hurdles to clear. As
PopSci rightly points out in its coverage, seeing this system is somewhat predicated on the idea that Tesla actually solves autonomous driving tech and launches a Robotaxi. Again, in theory, bring self-cleaning car tech to any future car, but its usefulness is clearly more evident in a heavily shared vehicle. 

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On top of that, there’s the issue of larger debris. No matter how excellent the self-cleaning Tesla might be, it won’t be able to handle physical debris, organic or otherwise, the same way that a person can. In that case, the car will need to detect that it’s beyond self-cleaning and then take itself to a sanitation station. At that station, Tesla plans to employ more robots to do what cleaning they can. 

Finally, all of this relies on all of these systems working in harmony. For example, imagine a scenario where the sanitation routine began while a child or pet was in the car. That probably wouldn’t go over well. The patent application mentions the use of various sensors to prevent such an outcome but it only takes one failure to make headlines. On the flip side, the potential benefits, if they all actually come about, are hard to overstate. 

Being able to walk away from your empty car and know that when you return it’ll be sanitized sounds pretty great. Knowing that the robotaxi you’re riding in isn’t full of potentially dangerous bacteria, viruses, and more sounds even better.

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BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
20 days ago

So the whole interior will be stainless steel too?

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
21 days ago

Stupid

The Clutch Rider
The Clutch Rider
21 days ago

is it only going to work in the shade?

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
21 days ago

Well, at least we’ll get some interesting lawsuits.

Droid
Droid
21 days ago

this seems as illusory as FSD.
to kill micro-organisms, need to either reach auto-clave temperature/pressure (120C/1barX30minutes) or fully saturate it with anti-biologic substances or get UV into every nook and cranny.
short of that (this IS the automotive industry after all), I’d expect it to just select for super-bugs…tesla=mrsa!?!??

VanGuy
VanGuy
21 days ago
Reply to  Droid

I mean…it’s not like it’s going to be hermetically sealed or get to “clean room” air standards. I wouldn’t be too worried about super-bugs.

Droid
Droid
21 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

then why bother heating?? that’ll just encourage micro-organisms.
UV and a spritz of chlorasil on the touch screen, sure.
ya, my comment is toward the hyperbole end of the spectrum…but this IS autopia!

JC Miller
JC Miller
21 days ago

when you run out of things to hype i guess you patent even more bogus things.
we are already talking about robotaxis yet they havent figured out the self driving part:
https://youtu.be/WBDCbqCr1V4?si=g-9_2gwMQ-zXow5l&t=74
maybe focus on step 1 before going to step 2? maybe?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
21 days ago

It’s like they’re just daring dipwads to take dumps in a Robotaxi.

Last edited 21 days ago by Canopysaurus
Pupmeow
Pupmeow
21 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I can’t wait to open the door to an available robotaxi to find a pile of EXTRA HOT turds on the back seat, with the car proudly announcing “Santitation procedure complete.”

JC Miller
JC Miller
21 days ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

It has to the Christmas dance after so the whole thing s epic!

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
21 days ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

I already regret asking but

I can’t do it, I can’t stop laughing at what all is implied by the turds being EXTRA HOT

One of my favorite quotes from Venture Bros comes to mind, talking about poor hapless HeLPeR:
“He looks like a dried out turd on a bad stretch of road.”

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
21 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

I mean, it uses heat to sanitize so it must be getting pretty dang hot. I know that lighting poo on fire creates an unholy scent, so I’m guessing any poo that is heated to significantly higher temps than 98.6 is going to be extra stank. I believe this is called deduction?

Also, I’ve never seen that show but I like a lot of weird adult animation (I’ve heard it’s kind of remiscent of Sea Lab or Aqua Teen from back in the day?) so someday I should check it out.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
21 days ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

More SeaLab than ATHF.

It’s much more coherent, and if you ever watched old Hanna-Barbera cartoons there’s LOADS of stuff in there, and even if you didn’t it’s still one of my favorites, especially in the early seasons. It starts to run a little lean on gags and rich on capital-p Plot, and I never finished it, but seasons 1 and 2 (I’ve watched through season 4ish) are gems.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
21 days ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

Venture Brothers is phenomenal. Mechjaz is correct that it does get very “plotty”, but I look at it as a feature, not a bug. The cast of characters is enormous, the worldbuilding is first-rate and the writing is smart as hell. The animation starts off a bit crude but gets vastly better as the series progresses. The voice work is impeccable from the very first episode. For my tastes, it’s the best adult animated show ever.

Drew
Drew
21 days ago

I’d like to congratulate Tesla on ensuring that the cabin temps will rise massively when cleaned, leading to an increase in energy use for both creating those heat spikes and cooling the cabin for passengers afterward.

John Patson
John Patson
21 days ago

Bet it will leave the car stinking of “pine” disinfectant as found in every squalid public toilet…. Ugh.
Have to drive with windows open for a week when the garage does the compulsory AC clean….This will be every day.

A. Barth
A. Barth
21 days ago

Well, fire does kill most germs…

But assuming that isn’t part of the design, we still have this:

“using the HVAC system to heat the cabin up enough to sanitize some surfaces. The same theory goes for some surfaces that Tesla plans to physically heat up to clean.”

And the energy to do that will come from… where? The batteries? Their handy flow diagram doesn’t mention being on a charger.

*reads patent summary*

Ah, okay

In some embodiments, the block 1110 may be a charging station where service machinery is stationed and the vehicle may coordinate with service machinery to sanitize the vehicle, such as the scenario illustrated in FIGS. 10A-10C, In some embodiments, at block 1110, the processor(s) 202-1 may cause a HVAC system 204 of the vehicle to increase the temperature and humidity of the vehicle and maintain the increased temperature and humidity’ for periods of time (e.g., thirty minutes) that might be effective in reducing some types of pathogens. After the more thorough sanitation operations (compared with the sanitation operations performed between block 1106 and block 1108) performed, the rideshare cycle 1 100 may proceed back to block 1 106, where the vehicle arrives at another pick-up spot to pick up a next passenger.” [The blocks refer to points in the flow diagrams, available in the full PDF linked below.]

In other areas, the patent refers to using the HVAC to direct hot air at touch surfaces and/or to use UV and [far] infrared to sanitize them.

I did see one interesting item: if the nav shows that a person was picked up and transported from a pathogen-filled place, like a hospital, the vehicle can go and be cleaned immediately after dropping off that person.

The full World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) document is here: https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/ab/f1/b2/6930e096123846/WO2023163943A1.pdf

It references the potential use of ceramics and other materials in/beneath touch surfaces that can also be used for sanitizing via heating.

Tbird
Tbird
21 days ago

Maybe I didn’t learn my Covid lesson. I’m less concerned about a surface being sanitized (I’m not a habitual finger licker) than clean. As in surface is not wet, sticky, crusty, dusty, or crumb covered. This system will address none of this. Carpets will still be filthy, there will still be spilled coke or vomit on late shift Friday night. Yay, I can’t smell the puke on the adjacent seat.

Last edited 21 days ago by Tbird
Johnny Anxiety
Johnny Anxiety
21 days ago

More snake oil from the grifter class. As stated below, their FSD is a complete fabrication that comes nowhere near Dear Leader’s proclamations of it being available [insert_currentyear].

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
21 days ago

August 8th of which year, exactly?

Drew
Drew
21 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

They plan this announcement August 8th of this year and every time there are concerns about the stock price for the next seven years.

Okay, not every time. Sometimes they’ll announce the robots again.

The Schrat
The Schrat
21 days ago

Their sensors can’t detect a child crossing the road; why should we trust that it wouldn’t go through a sanitation routine with a passenger onboard?

Drew
Drew
21 days ago
Reply to  The Schrat

I can see it now:

“Debris detected, locking doors.”

“No, I’m in here, I’m a person!”

“Beginning cleaning cycle.”

“Stop! Cancel!”

———–

Tesla superfans: “If the passenger had read the manual, it clearly states the command to cancel the cleaning cycle. This is definitely just user error.”

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
21 days ago
Reply to  Drew

The Cancel Clean Cycle Initiation Latch was clearly marked in page 134-4 in the animated user manual available in the center console. If the user had charged the battery fully, as they should have, and run the OTA update, which they should have, they would have known that by gently peeling the speaker grille off using the Emergency Speaker Grille Spudger, which they should have, they would know they antidiagonal hemicoil must be jiggled superciliously to release the grablatch which can then be circumnavigated in an antediluvial direction (otherwise it will break, which they should know) to relax the hidden leopard-print jaguar, arbiter of switches.

From there, it’s a simple matter of trembling the horn conflagrator outward, carefully shattering the window glass and granting egress. Obviously.

Peter Vieira
Peter Vieira
21 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

It’s even easier than that! You can tremble the horn conflagrator outward OR INWARD, it works either way!

Ben
Ben
21 days ago
Reply to  Drew

Nah, Elon is no fan of cancel culture so there just won’t be a way to do it, and the fanboys will cheer him for it.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
21 days ago
Reply to  The Schrat

Exactly. Let’s get the “self-driving” aspect of robotaxis figured out first. Then, we can worry about sanitization functions. This reminds me of a kid who’s doing his art homework first because he wants to procrastinate on his algebra assignment.

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
21 days ago
Reply to  The Schrat

Imagine you were just shit talking about Mr. Krabs and then when you get into the taxi on the way home it just initiates the cleaning

The Schrat
The Schrat
21 days ago

I think it would be a cold day in hell before I got into a Krabby Taxi.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
21 days ago

I thought the whole point of the self-cleaning was to minimize the risk of Krabs?

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