Tesla Wants to Put Lasers on Its Cars. Here’s Why




Tesla wants to mount lasers—yes, lasers—on its cars.

It might sound like a gimmick. But the logic behind a recent patent application looks sound. And even if the technology doesn’t work, the very existence of the patent application illustrates one thing: Tesla and its enigmatic CEO Elon Musk are masters of generating buzz.

Take the launch of Tesla’s Cybertruck. The November event in Los Angeles certainly had people talking about the pickup’s avant-garde, geometric design, towing capacity, and features such as bulletproof glass. Barron’s itself has written almost two dozen articles referencing Cybertruck since its launch.

It seems people can’t get enough of Tesla. Now there are lasers to write about. (The company also got some negative headlines, however, on Monday: A Tesla on Autopilot crashed into a police car over the weekend.)

The patent filing came to light—pardon the pun—in late November. The electric vehicle pioneer is seeking to protect technology it is developing for “pulsed laser cleaning of debris accumulated on glass articles in vehicles and photovoltaic assemblies.”

Translation: Tesla wants to zap debris off its windshields. Think of it as the most high-tech window defroster ever conceived.

It isn’t as odd as it sounds. The patent application makes some interesting points. For starters, vehicle electrification can mean solar panels on cars in the future. That’s a lot of glass surface area. And as autonomous driving technology adds more cameras and sensors to cars, its important to keep them all clean. The lasers offer a way to keep critical equipment clean without having to manually intervene—such as with an ice scrapper.