General Motors wants touchscreens to be free from fingerprint marks

Updated Feb 22, 2023 | Same topic: Leading-Edge Tech Trends

Imagine a touchscreen head unit that cleans itself.

The head unit on modern cars is a common touchpoint that’s also prone to being unsightly from being constantly handled. If General Motors (GM) has its way, the days of smudgy touchscreen displays will be numbered with the use of an innovative material.

Car touchscreen

You normally get this kind of clean only when the car isn't being used

According to a report by Autoevolution, the American automaker recently filed a patent for a self-cleaning screen that works right under the driver’s nose while looking like a standard in-dash monitor.

Typical touchscreens use LEDs in red, green, and blue pixels that operate at various brightness levels. GM proposes the addition of a fourth pixel dedicated to the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum, explaining that the screen’s surface will have a photocatalytic coating integrated into a transparent layer.

The photocatalytic coating absorbs invisible UV light, whether directly from sunlight or from the extra screen pixel, turning the water-resistant screen into one that attracts moisture from the air. This results in the screen’s surface having a thin layer of water that will be oxidized to attack impurities ranging from oil residues and debris to bacteria, fungi, and other biological contaminants.

GM patent figure

GM proposes the addition of a fourth LED pixel for ultraviolet light as part of its self-cleaning screen tech

In effect, the process cleans and sterilizes the touchscreen. When the UV light source is switched off, the screen returns to its original coating that beads up moisture to prevent water from damaging the sensitive electronics inside.      

The layer is speculated to be made from titanium dioxide, recently used by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute to create self-cleaning solar panels. According to the patent, the self-cleaning feature can either be initiated on demand during daytime drives or set to activate at a predetermined schedule at night, while the vehicle is parked.  

2024 Cadillac Celestiq

No word yet on whether GM will offer the tech on upcoming models such as the 2024 Cadillac Celestiq

GM has not disclosed the specifics of the self-cleaning touchscreen technology currently at the patent stage, and there are no indications that the feature will be offered on production models for now. But it might come in handy someday on future cars, especially family rides and those that always have that one passenger who’s fond of snacking while fiddling with the navigation system.

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Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Joseph Paolo Estabillo


Joseph holds a degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines Diliman and has been writing professionally since 1999. He has written episodes for CNN Philippines' motoring show Drive, and has worked on corporate projects for MG Philippines and Pilipinas Shell. Aside from being’s Content Lead, he also writes content for numerous car dealerships in the U.S., spanning multiple brands such as Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Maserati, among others.


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