General Motors has patented a system to make smudged, messy touchscreens a thing of the past.

    The patented system – filed in the USA and reported by autoevolution – would be invisible to the naked eye, but would require a fundamental change to how touchscreens are designed.

    Rather than red, green, and blue LEDs working at different brightness levels, the self-cleaning screen would feature a fourth pixel capable of outputting invisible ultraviolet light.

    The surface of the screen will feature a see-through layer of a “photo-catalyst”. New Atlas suggests it could be titanium dioxide, which was recently used by researchers to at the Fraunhofer Institute to create self-cleaning solar panels.

    When it’s exposed to UV light (from the sun in the case of solar panels, or the additional LED GM suggests) titanium dioxide begins attracting moisture from the air.

    That creates a thin layer of water on the screen, and starts oxidising to kill organic material – breaking down grubby, oily fingerprints. Switch off the UV lights and the surface goes back to being a regular, water resistant touchscreen.

    It’s not clear whether the UV lights in the GM system would be owner-operated, or whether the car would automatically activate its screen cleaner at a prescribed time.

    There’s no guarantee this technology will ever see a production car.

    It’s common for carmakers to patent speculative technology that doesn’t necessarily have an easy production application, although GM has broadened its scope beyond the automotive world to include “computers, mobile devices, televisions, kiosks, teller machines, and household appliances”.

    Scott Collie

    Scott Collie is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Scott studied journalism at RMIT University and, after a lifelong obsession with everything automotive, started covering the car industry shortly afterwards. He has a passion for travel, and is an avid Melbourne Demons supporter.

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