Targeted washer system can keep cameras, radar and windshields free of debris so they function properly
The here and now of commercial freight movement includes plenty of sensors, radars, and cameras, but those items only work if they can see and sense what they need to see and sense. The future of mobility likely includes autonomous vehicles, and they too will be dependent on an ever-complex set of technologies responsible for seeing the vehicle’s surroundings.
A small startup company based in Seattle believes it has the technology that will ensure these sensors and radars and cameras can see clearly, and like so many startups, it is a slight pivot from the initial design of their original product.
Seeva Technologies, co-founded by the father-daughter team of Jere and Diane Lansinger, was created based on the simply concept that cleaning windshields in colder climates would be easier if the washer fluid was heated. Now, the company sees additional possibilities for its technologies in, what Diane Lansinger calls, the “visibility for mobility” space.
External systems, such as cameras and sensors, don’t work very well when their lens are obscured by things such as dirt, ice, and bugs, Lansinger explains to FreightWaves. When that happens, drivers must clean off the lens, but she says, that can lead to scratching and other unintended damage, in addition to simply time to stop and perform the task.
“We are an automotive supplier that works on keeping these systems clean,” Lansinger says.
The founder of the product is Lansinger’s father, Jere, a retired engineer from Chrysler. Jere, 78, left Chrysler with approval to continue tinkering with some of his creative ideas. One of those ideas led to the development of SeevaTherm, a washer fluid heating system.
Originally designed to simply heat up washer fluid through the insertion of a heater element into the coolant line, the product quickly caught the eye of a major truck maker. “[Jere] had done a pilot production run and been able to get it into the Mopar catalog,” Lansinger says. Navistar bought some and put them into testing with the New York State Department of Transportation to help clear ice and snow from windshields of plow trucks.
Jere asked his daughter to join the company. An experienced entrepreneur herself (this is Diane’s third startup company), Lansinger saw great potential with Jere’s idea.
“It was clear to me that my Dad didn’t have the right people around him [to take advantage of the opportunity], and that it is autonomous cars” where great potential awaits. And investors also believe in the mission as the company announced $2 million of funding earlier this year to fuel expansion efforts.
Jere handles the creative side of the business as chief engineer and his daughter runs the company day-to-day as CEO. The company also employs Geoff Dean as chief technology officer, Derrick Redding as COO and Chris McDougall as vice president of sales.
Working with family can be difficult for some, but Lansinger says that is not the case with her father. “Who wouldn’t want the experience of working with your father,” she asks.
Lansinger says Seeva is in conversations with several OEMs on both the commercial and passenger sides of the industry but thinks large growth potential is in ensuring all the technologies being placed on the vehicles today is clean and in good working order.
“We’ve been gathering data for the last few months in the automotive R&D space,” she says, noting that the problem is how to keep lens and cameras clean. “No one has really come up with a scalable solution yet.”
Lansinger says that Seeva’s technology can allow “targeted washer jet” streams of heated fluid to be directed onto critical systems. “You are seeing this already on passenger vehicles and we will see this soon on commercial vehicles.”
This can be especially critical for commercial vehicles that may rely on cameras to help drivers see blind spots and behind vehicles.
Even windshields are growing in importance as more camera systems are being placed behind windshields. A snow- or ice-covered windshield can diminish the effectiveness of in-cab video-based safety systems, Lansinger says.
“What we’re trying to do is enable the technology investments [fleets are making to be most effective],” she notes.
Lansinger points out that there are a few Class 1-3 vehicles with backup cameras that offer targeted washer jets currently.
“The [technology] systems are smart enough to know they are dirty now …and they are sending an alert to the driver saying the lens is dirty,” Lansinger says. The Seeva technology can be incorporated into those alert systems so a targeted spray could occur automatically without driver intervention. The real complexity is the types of systems to deploy the technology on.
“We’re already talking with some OEMs about what the prototypes of these solutions will look like,” she says. “Every OEM is placing a different type of bet on what type of platform to place these systems on.”
Lansinger is excited for the future of Seeva Technologies, even as competition for visibility solutions heats up.
“This is definitely happening and we have the capability to scale,” she says. “There are others thinking about this; our hope is we can move a little faster because we are small and nimble.”
Currently, the technology is limited to smaller vehicles, such as autos, pickups, vans and straight trucks. The complexity of delivering targeted washer streams on a tractor-trailer combination is still being worked on, Lansinger says, but a solution looks like a possibility for that situation as well.
“The technology, while we have a product in the market today and we have other products in development, it’s exciting to be in product development,” she sums up.
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