While filing up your car with gas or plugging in your electric vehicle (EV) may seem like mundane errands, they can pose a challenge for drivers who are disabled or with limited mobility, as well as the elderly.
As such, Ford has come up with a prototype robot charging station for its EVs, which will allow drivers to automate the task without having to exit the car. The firm is currently trialing the innovation as part of a research project focused on developing hands-free charging solutions.
“I stopped filling up my car myself years ago, because it became very strenuous. My husband does it for me. The introduction of a robot charging station would offer me a much greater level of independence,” explained Angela Aben, Employee Communications at Ford of Europe, who moves around using a power-assisted wheelchair.
Image via Ford
During real-world tests, the charging system works by sliding open its cover, before extending a robotic arm towards the car’s inlet, which it navigates with a tiny camera. Drivers can see how far along their vehicle is being charged via the FordPass app, with the autonomous arm retracting back into place once it’s done.
According to Ford, this charging station, which was custom-built by Dortmund University in Germany, could be installed at disabled parking stations, in parking lots, or even at private homes worldwide.
Going forward, the automaker is looking at improving the design further, so that the process can be fully automated without any involvement from the driver for greater ease of use.
“Ford is committed to ensuring freedom of movement and right now, refueling or charging your vehicle can be a major problem for some drivers. The robot charging station could be an added convenience for some people but—absolutely essential for others,” said Birger Fricke, Research Engineer at the Research and Innovation Center, Ford of Europe.