Leonardo Fioravanti of the awesome vehicle design house Pininfarina has put together a prototype car, called Hidra, which has a windshield that negates the necessity for conventional wipers. The design relies on aerodynamics and surface treatment alone, which will supposedly be enough to keep a fly-away tree branch from obscuring your line of vision. The chemical treatments applied are where the autonomous cleaning action really happens, and they actually sound quite interesting.
The first layer deals with the sun and water; it prevents harmful rays from entering and has hydrophobic properties, ensuring water is repelled away. The second layer incorporates nano dust, and the treatment gives the screen the ability to "push" dirt away to the edges of the glass surface, which in turn relies on the third layer; a receptor surface that alerts the nano-dusted glass to do its self-cleaning business when grime is detected. Finally, an electrically conductive material is applied, which passes on electricity to power the entire mechanism.
Apparently, this could be mainstream in five years, but for us it makes more problems than it appears to solve; e.g. would it really remove our aforementioned fly-away tree branch? Would we receive an electric shock if we touched it whilst it was cleaning? What does it do with the dirt at the edges of the windshield? Why doesn't someone make a fully functioning Millennium Falcon? So many questions, so few physical windscreen wipers on the Hidra concept car. [Sparking Tech; la Repubblica]