March has come and gone and for those of us in the more northern parts of the country, the excruciatingly cold and long winter is far behind us. You would struggle to find anyone who isn’t happy about that fact, but with spring comes rain and drivers of the 2014 Buick Encore with Rainsense automatic wipers are appreciating the convenience of the technology now more than ever.
The optional automatic wipers use a rain sensor positioned behind the rearview mirror to send a signal to the vehicle’s computer telling it when there is rain on the windshield. But General Motors’ global design engineer for rain sensor technology, Matt Piazza, says the technology goes far beyond simply sticking a sensor on the windshield.
“There is a multi-stage process and testing procedure that we must to go through with the Encore, for example, in order to integrate the Rainsense function,” said Piazza. “Each vehicle is unique and there are a lot of factors like windshield pitch, rain intensity, vehicle speed, and light conditions, that all have to be accounted for and validated.”
Buick says the rain sensor itself is no larger than a wristwatch. It is more of a light sensor than a rain sensor, using infrared beams to detect water thorough light refraction when rain contacts the windshield. The sensor takes a reading once every 40 milliseconds and measures droplet size and frequency, which determines how slow or fast the wipers move.
Even though the sensor uses light beams to detect rain droplets on the windshield, the system still works in the dark. The human eye may perceive total darkness, but a raindrop still refracts some amount of light. The rain sensor automatically self-programs at night to become more sensitive, triggering more wipes and reducing dangerous windshield glare.
“The advanced technology of Rainsense wipers are another added level of luxury and convenience for Buick Encore drivers,” Piazza said. “It constantly monitors the windshield, so that’s one less thing on the driver’s mind, allowing them to concentrate on the road ahead. Once you experience it, you won’t want a vehicle without it.”