Title:
Window defrost control using rain sensor
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A window defrost control apparatus and method for a vehicle can include at least one obstruction sensor operable to monitor at least one surface and operable to output an obstruction detection status signal corresponding to detection of an obstruction on the at least one surface being monitored and/or at least one temperature sensor operable to output a temperature signal. A deice/defrost/defog HVAC system can be operable to remove ice, frost, fog, and/or condensation, collectively referred to herein generically as moisture, from the at least one surface being monitored. A controller can be operable to receive the status signal output from the at least one obstruction sensor and/or at least one temperature sensor, and can be operable to control activation of the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system in response to the obstruction detection status signal received and/or the temperature signal received.



Inventors:
Hill, Scott Edward (Saline, MI, US)
Hanselman, Brian Wesley (Milford, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/393221
Publication Date:
10/04/2007
Filing Date:
03/30/2006
Assignee:
NISSAN TECHNICAL CENTER NORTH AMERICA, INC. (Farmington Hills, MI, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/140
International Classes:
F25D21/02; F25D21/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ABDUR RAHIM, AZIM
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
YOUNG BASILE (TROY, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A window defrost control apparatus for a vehicle comprising: at least one obstruction sensor operable to monitor at least one surface and operable to output an obstruction detection status signal corresponding to detection of an obstruction on the at least one surface; an HVAC system operable to remove moisture from the at least one surface; and a controller operable to receive the status signal output from the at least one obstruction sensor and operable to control activation of the HVAC system in response to the status signal received.

2. The window defrost control apparatus of claim 1, wherein the controller is operable to control deactivation of the HVAC system in response to the status signal received from the at least one obstruction sensor.

3. The window defrost control apparatus of claim 1 further comprising: a wiper system operable to wipe the at least one surface being monitored; and the controller operable to activate the wiper system, prior to activation of the HVAC system, in response to the status signal received from the at least one obstruction sensor.

4. The window defrost control apparatus of claim 1 further comprising: a remote engine starter device operable to send a signal to an engine control unit; and the controller operable to activate the HVAC system in response to remote engine startup and the status signal received from the at least one obstruction sensor.

5. The window defrost control apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least one surface is selected from a group consisting of a windshield surface, a window surface, a mirror surface, a lens surface, and any combination thereof.

6. The window defrost control apparatus of claim 1 further comprising: at least one temperature sensor operable to send a temperature signal to the controller.

7. The window defrost control apparatus of claim 6, wherein the at least one temperature sensor is selected from a group consisting of an engine oil temperature sensor, an engine coolant temperature sensor, an engine intake air temperature sensor, a transmission oil temperature sensor, an automatic heating/ventilating/air conditioning (HVAC) temperature sensor, an exterior outside air temperature sensor, and any combination thereof.

8. The window defrost control apparatus of claim 1 further comprising: the controller operable to automatically activate operation of a wiper system in an attempt to clear an obstruction detected on the corresponding at least one surface being monitored, prior to the controller being operable to automatically activate the HVAC system for the corresponding at least one surface being monitored, and the controller being operable to determine if a monitored temperature is below a predetermined temperature prior to automatically activating the HVAC system.

9. The window defrost control apparatus of claim 1 further comprising: the controller operable to automatically activate operation of a wiper system in an attempt to clear an obstruction detected on the corresponding at least one surface being monitored, prior to the controller being operable to automatically activate the HVAC system for the corresponding at least one surface being monitored.

10. The window defrost control apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least one obstruction sensor is selected from a group consisting of an infrared sensor, a camera/video processor, and any combination thereof.

11. A method for controlling a window defrost apparatus for a vehicle comprising: monitoring at least one surface with at least one obstruction sensor operable to output an obstruction detection status signal corresponding to detection of an obstruction on the at least one surface; and controlling activation of an HVAC system operable to remove moisture from the at least one surface with a controller operable in response to the status signal received from the at least one obstruction sensor.

12. The method of claim 11 further comprising: controlling deactivation of the HVAC system with the controller in response to the status signal received from the at least one obstruction sensor.

13. The method of claim 11 further comprising: controlling activation of a wiper system operable to wipe the at least one surface being monitored with the controller, prior to controlling activation of the HVAC system, in response to the status signal received from the at least one obstruction sensor.

14. The method of claim 11 further comprising: controlling activation of the HVAC system with the controller in response to a remote engine startup and the status signal received from the at least one obstruction sensor.

15. The method of claim 11 further comprising: sending a temperature signal to the controller with at least one temperature sensor.

16. A method for controlling a window defrost apparatus for a vehicle comprising: detecting ice/frost/fog/condensation/moisture on at least one window of a vehicle with an obstruction sensor; and automatically activating a corresponding window deice/defrost/defog HVAC system in response to detection of ice/frost/fog/condensation/moisture on the at least one window of the vehicle.

17. The method of claim 16 further comprising: monitoring the at least one window of the vehicle continuously during vehicle operation.

18. The method of claim 16 further comprising: monitoring a temperature with at least one temperature sensor; and automatically activating the corresponding window deice/defrost/defog HVAC system in response to detection of ice/frost/fog/condensation/moisture on the at least one window of the vehicle in combination with the monitored temperature being below a predetermined temperature.

19. The method of claim 18 further comprising: automatically activating operation of a wiper system in an attempt to clear detected ice/frost/fog/condensation/moisture prior to automatically activating the corresponding window deice/defrost/defog HVAC system, if the monitored temperature is below a predetermined temperature.

20. The method of claim 16 further comprising: automatically activating operation of a wiper system in an attempt to clear detected ice/frost/fog/condensation/moisture prior to automatically activating the corresponding window deice/defrost/defog HVAC system.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a window defrost control apparatus and method for a vehicle operable to automatically activate a defroster and/or HVAC system in response to an obstruction detection status signal from an obstruction sensor and/or a temperature signal from at least one temperature sensor.

BACKGROUND

Various configurations for moisture and/or fog detection are known, for example, from U.S. Pat. No. 6,946,693; U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US 2005/0206511; and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US 2004/0000631. While these configurations appear suitable for their intended purpose, it would be desirable to provide an automatic window defrost control system using at least one obstruction sensor and/or at least one temperature sensor. It would be desirable to detect rain, ice, frost, fog, condensation, and/or moisture on a window, mirror, or lens surface, and automatically operate a deice, defog, defrost, and/or heating/ventilating/air conditioning (HVAC) system in order to reduce or eliminate the ice, frost, fog, condensation, or moisture without requiring manual activation by the user. It would be desirable to activate a window deicer, defogger, defroster, and/or HVAC system automatically after a vehicle has been started via a remote-start function, so that the windshield, windows, mirrors, and/or rear window could be cleared before a driver enters the vehicle. It would be desirable to provide a system that can continually monitor for the presence of rain, ice, frost, fog, condensation and/or moisture during vehicle operation, and automatically activate the deicer, defogger, defroster, and/or HVAC system whenever necessary. It would be desirable to provide a controller that can use an output from at least one obstruction sensor to detect the presence of rain, ice, frost, fog, condensation, moisture, dirt, dust, mud and/or other obstructing residue, collectively referred to herein generically as an obstruction, on at least one surface, such as a windshield, window, mirror and/or lens, of a vehicle. It would be desirable to provide a controller that can use the output of at least one temperature sensor to control activation and/or deactivation of a deice, defog, defrost, and/or HVAC system. It would be desirable to provide a deice, defog, defrost, and/or HVAC system that can be activated when an obstruction sensor detects rain, ice, frost, fog, condensation, moisture, dirt, dust, mud, or any other obstructing residue, and when a temperature sensor output indicates a temperature below a prescribed value. It would be desirable to provide a deice, defog, defrost, and/or HVAC system that can be automatically turned off by continuing to monitor the obstruction sensor output, without the need for a timer. It would be desirable to provide a controller that can automatically activate a wiper system in an attempt to clear an obstruction detected by an obstruction sensor, and if the obstruction has not been successfully cleared after the wiper system has been driven, to automatically activate a deice, defog, defrost, and/or HVAC system. It would be desirable to provide a controller that can automatically activate a deice, defog, defrost, and/or HVAC system after an obstruction sensor has generated an obstruction detection status signal, and after a temperature sensor has generated a temperature signal indicating a temperature below a predetermined value, and after an obstruction detected by the obstruction sensor has not successfully been cleared with operation of a wiper system. It would be desirable to provide a controller that can use the output of at least one temperature sensor that is associated with the vehicle for other purposes. It would be desirable to provide the output of at least one existing temperature sensor associated with the vehicle to be shared with a deice, defog, defrost, and/or HVAC system via a vehicle communication bus, so that no extra temperature sensor pack, package space, or wiring is required. It would desirable to provide any of the features described above in any combination.

SUMMARY

A window defrost control apparatus for a vehicle can include at least one obstruction sensor operable to monitor at least one surface and/or at least one temperature sensor. The obstruction sensor operable to output an obstruction detection status signal corresponding to detection of rain, ice, frost, fog, condensation, moisture, dirt, dust, mud, or any other obstructing residue, collectively referred to herein generically as an obstruction, on the at least one surface being monitored. A deice/defog/defrost system, sometimes referred to herein generically as a heating/ventilating/air conditioning (HVAC) system, can be operable to remove ice, frost, fog, and/or condensation, collectively referred to herein generically as moisture, from the at least one surface being monitored. A controller can be provided operable to receive the obstruction detection status signal output from the at least one obstruction sensor and can be operable to control activation of the HVAC system in response to the status signal received.

A method for controlling window defrost apparatus for a vehicle can include monitoring at least one surface with at least one obstruction sensor operable to output an obstruction detection status signal corresponding to detection of an obstruction on the at least one surface being monitored, and controlling activation of an HVAC system operable to remove moisture from the at least one surface with a controller operable in response to the status signal received from the at least one obstruction sensor.

A method for controlling a window defrost apparatus for a vehicle can include detecting ice, frost, fog, condensation, and/or moisture on at least one window of a vehicle with an obstruction sensor, and automatically activating a window deicer/defroster/defogger in response to detection of rain, ice, frost, fog, condensation, and/or moisture on the at least one window of the vehicle.

Other applications of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art when the following description of the best mode contemplated for practicing the invention is read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The description herein makes reference to the accompanying drawings wherein like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is a simplified schematic view of a window defrost control system using an obstruction sensor according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a simplified schematic flow diagram of a method for controlling operation of a deice/defog/defrost/HVAC system for a vehicle using at least one temperature sensor and at least one obstruction sensor according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a simplified schematic flow diagram of a method for controlling operation of a deice/defog/defrost/HVAC system for a vehicle including at least one obstruction sensor for controlling activation of a wiper system according to an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 4 is a simplified schematic flow diagram of a method for controlling operation of a deice/defog/defrost/HVAC system for a vehicle including at least one obstruction sensor and at least one temperature sensor to control activation of a wiper system according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring now to FIG. 1, a window defrost control apparatus 10 for a vehicle can include at least one obstruction sensor 12 operable to monitor at least one surface, and operable to output an obstruction detection status signal 14 corresponding to detection of rain, ice, frost, fog, condensation, moisture, dirt, dust, mud, or any other obstructing residue, collectively referred to herein generically as an obstruction, on the at least one surface being monitored. A deicer/defroster/defogger, collectively referred to herein generically as an HVAC system 16 can be operable to remove moisture from the at least one surface being monitored. A controller 18 can be operable to receive the status signal 14 output from the at least one obstruction sensor 12, and can be operable to control activation of the HVAC system 16 in response to the status signal 14 received.

The controller 18 can be operable to control deactivation of the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 in response to the status signal 14 received from the at least one obstruction sensor 12 for the at least one surface being monitored. The at least one obstruction sensor 12 can be selected from a group consisting of an infrared sensor, a camera/video processor, and any combination thereof. The at least one surface can be selected from a group consisting of a windshield surface, a window surface, a mirror surface, a lens surface, and any combination thereof.

A wiper system 20 can be operable to wipe the at least one surface being monitored. The controller 18 can be operable to activate the wiper system 20, prior to activation of the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16, in response to the status signal 14 being received from the at least one obstruction sensor 12. The controller 18 can be operable to automatically activate a wiper system 20 in an attempt to clear a detected obstruction from the at least one surface being monitored, prior to the controller 18 automatically activating the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 for the surface being monitored.

At least one temperature sensor 22 can be operable to send a temperature signal 24 to the controller 18. The at least one temperature sensor can be selected from a group consisting of an engine oil temperature sensor 22a, an engine coolant temperature sensor 22b, an engine intake air temperature sensor 22c, a transmission oil temperature sensor 22d, an automatic heating/ventilating/air conditioning (HVAC) temperature sensor 22e, an exterior outside air temperature sensor 22f, and any combination thereof. The controller 18 can be operable to automatically activate the wiper system 20 in an attempt to clear an obstruction detected on the at least one surface being monitored, prior to the controller 18 being operable to automatically activate the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 for the at least one surface being monitored. The controller 18 can be operable to determine if a monitored temperature signal 24 is below a predetermined temperature value prior to automatically activating the deicer/defroster/defogger/HVAC system 16.

A remote engine starter device 26 can be operable to start a vehicle engine resulting in output of an engine-running signal 28 being sent to the controller 18. The controller 18 can be operable to activate the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 in response to a combination of the engine-running signal 28 being present and the detection status signal 14 being present from the at least one obstruction sensor 12.

Referring now to FIG. 2, a method for controlling a window defrost apparatus 10 for a vehicle can include monitoring at least one surface with at least one obstruction sensor 12 operable to output a detection status signal 14 corresponding to detection of an obstruction on the at least one surface being monitored as illustrated in flow diagram box 102, and controlling activation of a deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 operable to remove moisture from the at least one surface being monitored with a controller 18 operable in response to the status signal 14 received from the at least one obstruction sensor 12 as illustrated in flow diagram box 114.

The method can include controlling deactivation of the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 with the controller 18 in response to the status signal 14 received from the at least one obstruction sensor 12 as illustrated by the flow diagram box 116, query 118, and flow diagram box 120. In query 118, the controller 18 can determine if any obstruction is present. If the answer to query 118 is YES, the method or control program can continue to monitor the status signal 14 received from the at least one obstruction sensor 12 associated with the at least one surface being monitored, as illustrated by the control branch returning to diagram box 116. If the answer to query 118 is NO, the method or control program branches to flow diagram box 120 where the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 is turned off or deactivated. When the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 is turned off in flow diagram box 120, the control system returns to flow diagram box 100, where the process can be repeated.

The method according to an embodiment of the present invention can begin with either a vehicle remote start activation of the engine or continued operation of the engine generating an engine-running signal 28 as illustrated in flow diagram box 100. The controller 18 can control activation of the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 in response to the remote engine start activation, or engine running signal 28, and in response to the obstruction detection status signal 24 received from the at least one obstruction sensor 12 as illustrated in flow diagram box 102 and query 104. In query 104, the controller can determine if an obstruction is present. If the answer to query 104 is NO, the method or control program can follow a branch returning to flow diagram box 102 to continue monitoring for the presence of any obstruction in query 104. If the answer to query 104 is YES, the method or control program can follow the branch to flow diagram box 106, where at least one temperature sensor 22 can be operable to send at least one temperature signal 24 to the controller 18. The controller 18 can compare the temperature signal 24 to determine if the temperature signal 24 is less than a predetermined value in query 108. If the answer to query 108 is NO, the flow diagram can follow the branch returning to flow diagram box 102. If the answer to query 108 is YES, the method or control program can branch to flow diagram box 110, where an additional temperature sensor can output a second temperature signal to the controller 18. In query 112, the controller 18 can determine if the second temperature is less than a prescribed value. If the answer to query 112 is NO, the method or control program can follow a branch returning to flow diagram box 102. If the answer to query 112 is YES, the method or control program can proceed to flow diagram box 114, where the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 is automatically activated by the controller 18.

Referring now to FIG. 3, an embodiment according to the present invention can include the previously described flow diagram boxes 100, 102, 114, 116, 120, and queries 104, 118, whose operation is identical to that previously described except as noted herein with respect to flow diagram box 122 and query 124. If the answer to query 104 is YES, the method or control program can continue to flow diagram box 122. The method or control program can include the controller 18 automatically activating operation of a wiper system 20 in an attempt to clear an obstruction detected on the at least one surface being monitored by the at least one obstruction sensor 12, as illustrated in flow diagram box 122. The method or control program can continue to query 124, where it can be determined by the controller 18 if an obstruction is still present after operation of the wiper system 20. If the answer to query 124 is NO, the method or control program can follow the branch returning to flow diagram box 102. If the answer to query 124 is YES, the method or control program can continue to flow diagram box 114, where the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 is automatically activated. All other aspects of flow diagram boxes 100, 102, 114, 116, 120, and queries 104, 118 are identical to the description set forth with respect to FIG. 2 above.

Referring now to FIG. 4, according to an embodiment of the present invention, the method or control program can include flow diagram boxes 100, 102, 114, 116, 120, and queries 104, 118 as previously described with respect to FIGS. 2 and 3, whose operation is identical to that previously described except as noted herein with respect to flow diagram box 106, 122 and queries 108, 124. If the answer to the query 104 is YES, the method or control program can proceed to flow diagram box 122, where the wiper system 20 is activated in an attempt to clear an obstruction detected on the at least one surface being monitored by the at least one obstruction sensor 12. The method or control program can continue to query 124, where the controller 18 can determine whether an obstruction is still present after operation of the wiper system 20. If the answer to query 124 is NO, the method or control program can follow the branch returning to flow diagram box 102. If the answer to query 124 is YES, the method or control program can continue to flow diagram box 106, where the controller 18 can obtain a temperature signal 24 from at least one temperature sensor 22. The method or program can continue to query 108, where the controller 18 can determine if the temperature signal 24 is less than a prescribed value. If the answer to query 108 is NO, the method or control program can follow the branch returning to flow diagram box 102. If the answer to query 108 is YES, the method or control program can continue to flow diagram box 114, where the deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16 is automatically activated. All other aspects of flow diagram boxes 100, 102, 114, 116, 120, and queries 104, 118 are identical to the description set forth with respect to FIGS. 2 and 3 above.

A method for controlling a window defrost apparatus 10 for a vehicle can include detecting rain/ice/frost/fog/condensation, collectively referred to herein as moisture, on at least one window or surface of a vehicle with an obstruction sensor 12, and automatically activating a corresponding window or surface deicer/defroster/defogger, collectively referred to herein as an HVAC system, in response to detection of moisture, on the at least one window or surface of the vehicle.

The at least one window of the vehicle can be continuously monitored during vehicle operation. Temperature can be monitored with a temperature sensor, and the corresponding window or surface deice/defrost/defog HVAC system, can be automatically activated in response to detection of moisture, on the window or surface of the vehicle when the monitored temperature is determined to be less than a predetermined temperature. Operation of a wiper system can be automatically activated by the controller in an attempt to clear detected moisture or obstruction, prior to automatically activating the window or surface deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16. Automatic operation of the window or surface deice/defrost/defog HVAC system 16, can be subject to a comparison of a monitored temperature with a predetermined value, such that when the controller determines that the monitored temperature is below a predetermined value, the window or surface device/frost/defog HVAC system 16, can be automatically activated.

While the invention has been described in connection with what is presently considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiment, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the disclosed embodiments but, on the contrary, is intended to cover various modifications and equivalent arrangements included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims, which scope is to be accorded the broadest interpretation so as to encompass all such modifications and equivalent structures as is permitted under the law.