Many readers will be picking up this issue of Auto Laundry News for the first time at The Car Wash Show in Chicago. Those who have made the effort to attend the car wash industry’s premier event will be rewarded withopportunities to learn more about the industry and the business world beyond and to network with their peers. The greatest reward, however, may be discovering the latest in wash equipment, products, and systems on the trade show floor. All of these advances, individually or taken together, have the potential to enhance a wash’s efficiency, safety, appearance, and profitability.

We are gathering in Chicago in large part to find out what surprises manufacturers and other suppliers have in store for us. Revealing these innovations ahead of time — if we knew what they were — would just spoil the fun. While much joy can be had from exploring the exhibitor booths, there is serious work to be done evaluating the relevance and efficacy of every new item on display. Ours is no longer a one-size-fits-all industry, as Anthony Analetto so clearly explains in his column, On the Wash Front, this month.

The broader automotive industry is innovating and advancing at breakneck speed. It’s a challenge to keep up with the technological advances. But we need to. Whether a new method of propulsion, an interior design quirk, or a high-tech paint finish, at some point the car care service provider is going to have to deal with it.

Just as we were getting comfortable with the all-electric and hybrid alternatives to internal combustion — while still a little skittish about fuel cells — along comes yet another way to move our vehicles. The nanoFLOWCELL® powertrain fitted in a research vehicle was declared the highlight of last month’s Geneva Motor Show. Flow cells reportedly combine aspects of electrochemical accumulator cells with those of fuel cells — another hybrid of some sort then. While I do not understand the technology, I do understand the claimed efficiency: five times greater performance by weight than current lithium-ion technologies.

Eighteen months ago, we took a first look at Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). New research from Audi’s Urban Intelligent Assist program takes us well beyond the usual lane-departure warnings, blind-spot detection, and forward-collision warning. It becomes quite personal. Audi’s research includes technology that tells motorists the optimal time to leave for an appointment and directs them on the most efficient route to open street or garage parking in addition to signaling when it is safe to accomplish maneuvers like merging or changing lanes on a congested highway.

Nvidia, a computer technology company, claims that its Tegra® K1 mobile processor paves the way for autonomous or self-driving cars to reach the mainstream. The Tegra K1, it says, will drive camera-based ADAS that, in addition to the above-mentioned functions, will include pedestrian detection, street-sign recognition, and even driver-alertness monitoring via a dashboard-mounted camera.

What intrigued me most about the processor’s claimed attributes, was its ability to create “razor-sharp, photo-real, 3D graphics,” allowing the company to create customized digital instrument clusters. Drivers will be able to configure their gauges, controls, and dials to suit their unique tastes, the company says. Now, the digital instruments in the new Mercedes Benz S class makes for an easily cleaned surface — you’re dealing with a flat screen that needs little more than a quick wipe. Imagine the consternation, though, when the wash’s drive-on, drive-off staffer is faced with a unique set of controls and dials every time he gets into a car.