GM has filed a patent application for a system that could detect airborne COVID-19 and other coronavirus particles in a vehicle and sound an alarm to warn vehicle occupants of the presence of the virus.
This GM patent filing has been assigned application number US2022/0214480 A1 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and was published on July 7th, 2022. It’s titled “airborne coronavirus detector and alerting system” and lists Michigan-based engineers Thomas A. Seder and Kai-Han Chang as the inventors.
This technology uses a plurality of glass members featuring a thin-film coating with receptors that can detect when it comes into contact with COVID-19 particles. An associated alarm would then sound to warn vehicle occupants of the airborne virus. The patent also acknowledges that “there exists a lingering need for systems and methods configured for quick detection of airborne viruses,” despite the existence of rapid COVID-19 testing methods.
While this technology would be of limited use in personal vehicles, it could be useful for autonomous vehicles like the Cruise Origin robotaxi. As the Cruise Origin will be used by a large number of different individuals on a daily basis and is completely unmanned, this system could alert Cruise operators that one of its autonomous vehicles has airborne COVID-19 detected in it, allowing them to remove the vehicle from circulation for cleaning.
GM has also filed patents for systems that could automatically detect when an AV has seatbelt damage or exterior body damage for a similar reason. As AVs like the Cruise Origin will be unmanned, these systems and similar technologies could potentially serve as a way for GM to remotely monitor the condition, cleanliness and overall safety of its AVs.