As the auto industry contemplates the shift from sales to services, automated logistics like this new BMW car-cleaning drone are coming into focus.
Automakers have been talking about a shift from new car sales towards a more service-oriented business model for some time, but for many of these car companies such a shift has proven difficult. One reason for this emerged in recent news about the General Motors Maven car-sharing experiment, in which the massive automaker struggled to manage direct consumer relations that have traditionally been handled by dealers. But what if the shift toward services took advantage of maturing automation technology, like car washes provided by autonomous flying drones? That’s a possibility that BMW seems to be looking into, according to recently-published patent application documents.
This new application envisions an automated system by which an unmanned aerial drone can be reserved or summoned to automatically wash a car. The drone would be able to recognize the target vehicle, determine that all windows and doors are closed and send an alert if they are not, detect the level of dirt, remove any objects that prevent cleaning as well as take before and after photos to be sent to the customer. The washing process would involve pre-washing, washing, drying and waxing, although the patent application does not specify details for how the washing would take place. The drone could be located in the vehicle it would clean, essentially making it a self-cleaning vehicle, or it could be placed in another vehicle that would act as a home base for drones that clean other vehicles.