We can easily say that touch screens, which replace physical buttons in cars, will not disappear anytime soon.
In fact, it's certain that your car's dashboard will likely be a large screen covered with fingerprints that will stay there for weeks. To make these fingerprints less irritating, General Motors has patented a new screen design that allows touchscreens to clean fingerprints on their own.
If you are imagining a patent detailing a robot arm that extends and starts working by holding a microfiber cloth from the dashboard of a car, your guess is unfortunately not correct.
GM proposes something much more clever and unobtrusive.
In addition to the red, green, and blue pixels, the proposed displays will offer an additional purple pixel that is invisible to the human eye, similar to ultraviolet light, to avoid affecting the colors and images seen on the screen. Also, the touchscreen uses a similarly invisible photocatalyst screen coating designed to absorb certain wavelengths of light to create a chemical reaction. GM's patent proposes the use of a metal oxide-based photocatalyst that will respond to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, but since many cars use window film to keep interiors dark and cool, the photocatalyst's response will instead be initiated by purple pixels.
At night, purple pixels will turn on and activate the photocatalyst in the display overlay when the vehicle is unused in the dark, or even during a cleaning cycle initiated manually by the driver during the day.
This process will initiate a chemical reaction that uses moisture from the air to break down the organic materials left behind in fingerprints (such as oils left after fingers touch). Once the reaction has stopped and everything has dried, those greasy stains and fingerprints will be gone.
When will self-cleaning touchscreens start appearing as an option on GM vehicles remains an unanswered question.
The fact that the technology is still in the patent stage does not explain how determined and willing GM is for this technology. As always when it comes to patents, it is unknown when or if GM will use this technology.