With progressing technology, autonomous vehicles are able to differentiate between dangerous obstacles and non-threatening objects much more easily and accurately than they used to.

However, the car computers have still not perfected the process to the level that is needed for circumstances outside the norm.  For example, driving one of these smart cars through a car wash can be complicated if the override system is not easily provided.  The systems in some of these vehicles experience difficulties in knowing when it is necessary to turn on the brakes or override impulses.

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The reason behind this problem is that the radar sensors view the soapy lathered brushes and large water jets as an impending threat. Therefore, a car equipped with these sensors can get confused and kick into safety mode in order to avoid an anticipated collision.

Adam Korngold, President of Waves Car Wash, states “We are just starting to see this issue come up.  Some of the vehicle manufacturers have put in safety devices that sense a car in front of the vehicle and the vehicle will automatically apply the break.  We’ve seen a couple times that a few of the higher end cars will recognize our curtains in the wash and automatically cause the car to stop.”

Are cars too smart for the car wash?

Craig Fitzgerald, Editor of BestRide.com, recently conducted a car wash test, while in a 2017 Kia Cadenza.  When he drove in and the conveyer belt tried to move him forward, the car wouldn’t move because the autohold break, a safety feature to keep the car from moving when it is parked in neutral, was on.  However, he said that it was really easy to turn that feature off by pressing a button.

He went on to explain that other cars, such as the Volvo XC90, are not nearly as easy to override.  The Volvo XC90 has its override information located deep in the middle of the owner’s manual, and the instructions to turn off the system are a bit more complicated.

Some vehicle companies such as Tesla have considered these kinds of scenarios and have provided an easy method for owners to turn off the vehicle assistance when going through a car wash.  As autonomous vehicles become more and more popular, these bugs are sure to be worked out.  Until then, owners just need to be prepared and know how to override the safety systems when necessary.