For most of us, filling a car with fuel, or charging an electric vehicle is a simple task. But for disabled drivers, people with reduced mobility and older people it can be a significant challenge.
Now, Ford says it has developed a prototype robot charging station that drivers operate via their smartphone from inside their electric vehicle.
The technology could enable disabled drivers to stay in the car while charging, or they could leave the car while the robot does all the work.
Disabled drivers have already identified ease of charging as a key purchase consideration for electric vehicles, according to a recent survey in the UK.
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 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, Ford claims that 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.