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Robotic charging station can help disabled drivers, charge future robotaxi fleets

Ford has developed a prototype robotic charging station, which the automaker is initially touting as an aid for drivers with disabilities.

Ford said in a press release that wrapping the charging cable can be difficult for drivers with disabilities, but the robotic charging station can be operated via just a smartphone, allowing drivers to stay at home. in the car or leave and let the robot plug itself in, Ford said in a press release.

Built by Germany’s Dortmund University, the prototype uses a camera to guide a charging arm into place. Drivers can monitor charging status using the FordPass app, but in the future, autonomous vehicles could be dispatched to charge without further involvement, Ford said.

Ford robot charging station prototype

Ford robot charging station prototype

After testing in the lab, Ford says it’s ready to test the robot charging station in the real world. The automaker says it will also work with Europe’s charging network to improve the design.

Whether it is to improve accessibility for people with disabilities or increase convenience for all, a number of ideas for automatic charging have circulated over the past few years. Tesla tested a snake-like automatic charger in 2015, for example.

More recently, the Chinese company Aiways showed a small charging robot can be called by the EV driver through an app. EV Safe Charge has its own version, charged as a way to provide fast charging in more locationswithout the need for fixed infrastructure.

Ford robot charging station prototype

Ford robot charging station prototype

Continental made it yet another robotic device Use a charging dock with a connector under the vehicle. It is meant to offer some of the convenience of wireless charging, but with physical connectivity.

Final, wireless charging could allow for a similar level of flexibility compared to automating conventional charging stations, as the driver simply stops on the charging dock instead of plugging it in. But that would require equipping the vehicle with the necessary charging hardware and creating a network of public stations to accommodate existing wired charging infrastructure. Right now, that seems like a daunting task.

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