Spinning brushes, swinging soap nozzles, narrow tracks and other dangers to AVs lurk within the typical automated car wash, notes a recent survey by the ICWA.  (Yu Totya/Wiki Commons)

Why car washes threaten automated vehicles

What can happen to a vehicle equipped with advanced driver assistance systems inside an automated car wash? Havoc and damage are just two results, according to a recent 36-page report released by the leading car-wash trade association.

Nearly 40% of the surveyed 245 U.S. car wash owners reported instances of a vehicle’s forward collision avoidance system applying the brakes during the automated car cleaning process. About 16% of those surveyed noted incidents of bumper-embedded sensors being damaged by the cleaning brushes or bristles.

The survey, conducted by Schwartz Advisors for the International Car Wash Association, underscores the fact that not every vehicle owner reads the owner’s manual to find out what needs to be done in preparation for an automated car wash.

“We have a simple idea, and that is to route all car wash-sensitive functions to a common switch inside the vehicle and reduce the instruction in the owner’s manual to one line: push this button,” said Derek Kaufman, Schwartz Advisors’ Managing Partner, during his Tech Hub presentation at the 2018 SAE WCX. The one-button solution would de-activate and activate system/s that could be damaged during a car wash.

In a future world with autonomous vehicles, the solution could be vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. “We believe the ultimate solution is telematics,” said Kaufman.

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