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Toyota seeks auto car wash patent for future AI-powered vehicles

two cars coming out from a carwash
January 6, 2021

An interesting corner of the growing world of AI is its adoption in the automotive industry. As automakers are racing to develop driverless vehicles for widespread adoption, they recognize that leveraging AI-powered solutions and features will be the key differentiators for their brand.

In December 2020, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published Toyota’s application for a “car wash judgment” method and system. If implemented, the technology would allow cars to autonomously determine whether they are dirty and in need of cleaning.

Using location data, with unpaved roads and bad weather as key factors, a vehicle-mounted device determines whether a car wash is in order. The system also takes into account whether a car wash detour would cause too much of a delay for passengers, and adjusts accordingly. Additionally, cars used for rental and ridesharing can schedule cleanings in between clients.

Its claim to a car wash judgment system that requires no human intervention separates the technology from those owned by Microsoft and Magna Electronics, which can autonomously direct cars to locations such as a car wash, but still require the driver to assess the car’s cleanliness; or by Ford, which uses a similar approach but to assess car damage.

Most inventions in this space disclose automated parking and then offer an additional feature of having an automated car wash. They do not, however, take into account the current state of the vehicle, whether it is or not already due for a cleaning. Some inventions also have information gathering capabilities but are not processed further to identify or determine a car wash condition.

In 2019, Toyota secured over 1,800 patents from the USPTO; it was the 17th most active organization for patent activity. In the same year, the car manufacturer had offered its hybrid vehicle patents royalty-free, as a response to increased demand for fully electric vehicles. It appears to have paid off a year later, as the maker of the Prius saw a resurgence in the hybrid market, which it has dominated so far in the 21st century.

Artificial intelligence is steadily seeing use in more and more facets of life, from the ways people connect online, how companies conduct business, to governments’ methods of policing their citizens. Parola Analytics has also produced an in-depth look at the future of the labor market in relation to AI. In any case, speed, reliability, and convenience have made the technology such an attractive prospect for the near future.

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