Getting a big, noticeable scratch on your car without knowing it is frustrating—ask me how I know. BMW seems to agree, at least if its recent patent application is anything to go by. The automaker is looking to patent a system consisting of a protection film that applies to the vehicle—similar to paint protection film—accompanied by electronics that allow the car to detect the scratch and alert the driver.
The patent literature indicates the system originates in China, where older cities don't have the road or parking infrastructure to support the nation's growing number of automobiles. As such, parking and driving are often performed in very tight conditions, often leading to cars getting scratched up without the owners noticing. As such they aren't able to do anything about it.
BMW's idea is to use a "scratch-sensitive skin" to detect scuffs. The film would be conductive, meaning that when punctured or abraded it would detect a change in current. This, in turn, would alert the driver the vehicle has been scratched. It could likewise enable the vehicle's various cameras when the scratch is detected in order to determine a perpetrator—assuming it's not an inanimate object. Either way, though, I would want to beat up the rock that scratched my quarter panel.
How the system alerts the driver varies, according to the patent documents. If a scratch occurs while the car is driving, the vehicle will tell the driver with auditory and visual cues. If it occurs while the car's owner is outside of the vehicle, an alert can be sent wirelessly, assumedly to their smartphone.
The German automaker has not been granted this patent as of yet. Even if it was, patents aren't always a statement of production intent. It's plausible the company could receive this patent and then never do anything with it. Seeing as it loves subscriptions, though, the Bavarians may be interested in charging drivers to detect when their vehicles are dinged up.
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