DETROIT—Not all the hot new technical innovations these days are about advanced autonomous driving and futuristic artificial intelligence-infused components.
There also are windshield wipers.
"You still have to change your wiper blades, right?" reasons Jean Marie Thrower, an industry business development adviser who works with auto suppliers in different segments. "Maybe it's not as sexy as autonomous driving, but auto makers still want to hear about it."
Thrower, a former Army Airborne logistics officer and former Visteon steering operations manager, represents the other side of the industry's innovation wave. It's one thing to dream up and perfect a technological breakthrough—it's another to sell it.
For the past three and a half years, Thrower has been assisting ClearBlade Inc., a Denver startup that is standing by to produce original equipment double-bladed wiper systems for auto makers.
ClearBlade claims that its twin-blade design—with outlets embedded into the wiper that administer cleaning fluid as the blades swipe—does twice the cleaning and makes better use of the streams of fluid, which in a traditional wiper system often drain away before making contact with a wiper blade.
The fact that ClearBlade bears a passing resemblance to something already on the market—"Magic Vision Control," a double-blade wiper system developed by Mercedes-Benz and Valeo and introduced several years ago on Mercedes models—is not a problem, Thrower said. In fact, it is ClearBlade's selling point.
A Mercedes owner must take their vehicle into a Mercedes dealership for service techs to carefully remove and replace the premium wiper blades. That service visit, with parts and labor, typically runs a few hundred dollars.
ClearBlade's benefit is that it is a simpler design that can be popped into place by vehicle owners in their driveway. And that simplified construction will enable it to sell for as little as $15 to $30.
ClearBlade was granted a patent for its design in 2016, and the company even mentioned its Mercedes competitor in its patent application to drive home the point of its difference.