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Weekly Innovation: Friendly Roadways Just A Wave Away

The Wiper Wave, attached to your car's rear wiper, promises to take a bit of the tension out of the rough commute.
Tyler Fishbone
The Wiper Wave, attached to your car's rear wiper, promises to take a bit of the tension out of the rough commute.

Picture this: You're sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. You're rushing to work, fighting your way home, or just picked the wrong time to "run" to the store.

Stuck in a sea of red brake lights, isn't it nice when you "let someone in" and they throw a quick wave to thank you?

"If you think about how cars interact with each other, it's almost all negative," says Tyler Fishbone. "Beeping of a horn; a flashing of headlights; following too closely; yelling at someone — there is no real method that your car can produce for positive communication."

Commuters spend about 38 hours a year sitting in slow-moving, frustrating traffic but Fishbone came up with a way to make roadways more friendly and welcoming.

Fishbone, 26, developed The Wiper Wave in 2010. He was driving with his younger sister one day, and they let someone merge in front of them — but the driver didn't wave to thank them.

They started talking about how something as small as a roadway gesture can affect your mood. Fishbone thought it'd be funny to make a hand to go on the back of a car that would wave to other drivers for an "extremely obvious" thank-you.

"I have found in my life that ... people really want to interact with other people in a positive way," Fishbone says. "If you start that with other people, you get it back."

And he's right: It's as simple as thanking someone for holding the door for you, or smiling to a familiar face as you stroll down the street.

"Those little things can make you extremely happy and feel so positive about humanity as a whole," he says. "If you give it, you receive it."

And now, what started as a homemade, twisted-wire hand that Fishbone made for each of the family cars is a Kickstarter campaign.

The Wiper Wave will be made out of thermoplastic and is weather resistant. It attaches to a car's back windshield wiper with zip ties. For those without a rear windshield wiper, there is a Wiper Wave window decal. Fishbone is also developing "waves" for scooters and motorcycles.

When Fishbone first began placing the "waves" on cars, he says, it was surprising how people reacted to them.

"It was neighbors; it was random drivers. I even nervously gave a wave to some police officers who were behind me waiting at a light," he says. "They burst out laughing and waved back to me. It made me feel so much better."

When he's not making the open road a happier place, Fishbone helps others bring their ideas to life — at Metrix Create Space in Seattle. He and Wiper Wave co-founder Mark Shesser, who has experience with startups, launched the Kickstarter on Oct. 8. So far, they have received pledges of nearly $7,000 toward a $10,000 goal.

"Imagine if being nice to other drivers was a cool and new and popular thing to do," Fishbone says. "That's the kind of world that I want to live in, and that's the kind of world that we're trying to create."

Allie Caren is a former digital news intern at NPR and writes about tech-related news and innovations. She loves to wave — sometimes, with both hands. Follow Allie on Twitter @alLISTENc.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Allie Caren
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