Tesla aims to make its autonomous vehicles self-cleaning

Tesla has filed a patent for an automated disinfection system designed for its future autonomous electric robotaxis. This system aims to utilize various sensors to monitor the conditions inside the vehicle and disinfect the cabin using ultraviolet radiation, heating systems, or robots stationed on special platforms. However, before implementing this idea, Tesla must first solve the challenge of autonomous driving.

Tesla plans to launch its robotaxi service as soon as it resolves the autonomous driving issue, which Elon Musk suggests will happen very soon. However, removing drivers from cars will introduce new challenges. Besides driving, drivers are also responsible for maintaining the technical condition of the vehicles and keeping them clean.

The automaker has filed a patent for a new system called “Environmental Condition Control in Enclosed Spaces,” which aims to automate at least part of the disinfection process for autonomous vehicles. Tesla states in the patent background that shared vehicle use is beneficial in terms of cost, efficiency, and ecology. For instance, a car transporting multiple passengers throughout the day incurs lower transportation costs and has a lesser environmental impact compared to a car used by one person for personal trips. However, shared vehicle use can potentially spread infections. Existing disinfection methods, such as manual wiping, are labor-intensive and not always effective, and verifying their efficacy can be difficult.

In its patent, Tesla describes using various sensors to monitor conditions inside the vehicle, including image sensors, acoustic sensors, thermal sensors, pressure sensors, capacitive sensors, radio frequency sensors, or gas sensors. Regarding the disinfection procedure itself, Tesla mentions the potential use of ultraviolet radiation and heating systems for cabin disinfection.

The Tesla patent proposes two options for automatic disinfection. One option involves using built-in features within the vehicle, while the other involves moving the car to a special platform equipped with robots for sanitation processes. In this mode, the vehicle would switch to a “disinfection” mode, which could include adjusting seats or opening windows to allow access for the disinfection light source.

While Electrek notes this is a promising idea, implementing these self-cleaning robotaxis will require Tesla to first address the challenge of fully autonomous driving.

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