Tesla Files Sanitization System Patent for Robotaxis

Tesla’s latest patent application shows the automaker continues to think ahead to a future of autonomous driving. The patent, titled “Controlling Environmental Conditions in Enclosed Spaces,” outlines a sanitization system designed for Tesla’s future robotaxi fleet, addressing the unique challenges posed by shared autonomous vehicles.

As Tesla prepares to unveil its robotaxi design next month, and launch its autonomous ride-hailing service in the future, the company recognizes the importance of maintaining cleanliness in shared vehicle spaces. The absence of drivers, who traditionally play a role in keeping ride-hailing vehicles clean, requires a unique approach to sanitation.

Tesla’s patent describes this challenge, stating, “Shared spaces have a disadvantage of facilitating indirect transmission of communicable diseases through contaminated air or surfaces. Current means for sanitizing shared spaces, such as manually wiping touch surfaces using disinfectant wipes, can be time-consuming, laborious, and lead to unsatisfactory sanitation conditions.”

The patent reveals a variety of cutting-edge technologies Tesla plans to employ to keep its robotaxi interiors clean. These include:

  1. UV Light and Heating Systems: Tesla’s system will utilize ultraviolet light and heating elements to disinfect surfaces and air within the vehicle. This approach is effective against a range of pathogens and ensures comprehensive coverage.
  2. Sanitization Vapor: The system can emit disinfectant vapor to sanitize the cabin, reaching areas that manual cleaning might miss. This vapor, combined with the vehicle’s HVAC system, can adjust temperature and humidity to create conditions that inhibit the survival of bacteria and viruses.
  3. Autonomous Cleaning Routines: The vehicle can enter a “sanitization mode,” where it uses sensors to determine when it is unoccupied and initiate cleaning processes. The system may include mechanisms to open windows and adjust seat positions to optimize exposure to sanitizing light and air.
Credit: USPTO

Tesla’s patent also envisions a scenario where the robotaxi autonomously drives to specialized sanitization stations, equipped with robotic cleaning arms, which can perform deep cleans. As SETI Park, a patent researcher who first shared the new patent, noted, “This technology will not only benefit vehicle sharing but also provide convenience to vehicle owners and operators, thereby enhancing the value of Tesla vehicles and improving the user experience.”

While still only a patent, the introduction of this automated sanitization system could revolutionize the ride-hailing industry by eliminating the need for manual cleaning, reducing operational costs and increase the availability and reliability of Tesla’s robotaxi fleet. Of course there is the added benefit the appeal of enhanced hygiene measures will likely have to health-conscious consumers, particularly in the post-pandemic world.

Tesla plans to unveil its dedicated robotaxi vehicle, the Cybercab, on August 8, 2024. This vehicle, inspired by the design of the Cybertruck, will be fully autonomous and lacks a traditional steering wheel.

You can read the full patent below.

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