A robot charging station has been developed by Ford to help disabled drivers switch to electric vehicles.
The station – which is in prototype form – is operated via a smartphone from inside the vehicle.
Ford is testing the robot charging station as part of a research project to develop hands-free charging solutions for electric vehicles and fully automatic charging for autonomous vehicles.
Following initial lab testing, Ford researchers are now putting the robot charging station to the test in real-life situations.
Once activated, the station cover slides open and the charging arm extends towards the power inlet with the help of a tiny camera.
For the trial, drivers were able to monitor the charge status via the FordPass app. After charging, the arm retracts back into place.
In future, the robot charging station, custom-made by Dortmund University in Germany, could be installed at disabled parking spaces, in car parks or at private homes.
Further applications could include fast and efficient charging of company fleets. The technology could also support more powerful charging to charge vehicles in a much shorter time.
Looking ahead, the process could become fully automated, with minimal or no driver involvement. The driver would simply send the vehicle to the charging station, with the infrastructure ensuring it reaches and returns from its destination autonomously.
Ford says a follow-up project with the charging network provider IONITY will look to further improve the robot charging station.