Just before World War 2 kicked off and when cars were becoming a lot more common, the world's first tunnel automatic carwash opened in the U.S. For about 50 years, the brushes used were nylon and left brush marks and scratches on the paintwork, but since the 1980's these nylon brushes were replaced by foam sponges or thin cloth strips so that not only is the paint work protected but they also provide a cleaner finish and in some cases actually polish the car.
There are three steps in the washing sequence, the first pass is the pre-wash which has wetting chemicals. Second step is the soap process and the final step is brushing. In the days before computerization, car washes needed cashiers to take the money and then operate the machines, but since the 1980's and the advent of computerized point-of-sale equipment, the customer has been able to pay the cashier, who could be located in another area and then, using pre-programmed cards, drive the car into the wash and the machine would take care of the rest. These early computerized systems were usually quite simple with three to five programs and the carwash treated all vehicles in the same way, but the use of more advanced technology carwashes are able to sense the size of the vehicle and adjust details such as the amount of water and foam used.
But there is still a problem, despite the sensors knowing the car size; there hasn't been a way of determining how dirty the car is. Therefore, all car washes treat cars as though they have come from a day of dirt rally's. But for most cars, the nearest they get to sliding through a muddy forest is going through a muddy puddle on a rainy day or even several weeks and months of not being cleaned. So, the latest innovation is to be able to adjust the amount of chemicals, water, and electricity used based on local conditions. Now, the carwash operative determines how dirty a vehicle is and then sets the level on the operator panel. These levels adjust how much water pressure, brush pressure, foam, etc. is used.
Now it's possible to replace the control panel with waterproof touch panels which will enable the operator to watch exactly what's going on with all system components in real-time, therefore, if any problems do occur they can be resolved quickly before the next customer is serviced.
With the costs of everything going up, greener carwashes are the way of the future and it looks as though this maybe one way of achieving it. In the future, the same technology that is used in factories to look at the quality of a building may also be able to determine exactly how dirty a car is and make immediate adjustments to the consumable levels, therefore providing even a greater accuracy and removing human guess work from the equation.