GOOGLE is developing technology that would allow its battery-powered autonomous cars to not only drive themselves, but also charge themselves. According to documents filed at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Google’s parent company Alphabet is testing two separate wireless charging systems that would negate the need for human intervention when charging its vehicles.
The systems work in a similar way to wireless charging for smartphones, transferring power from an external transmitter to an embedded receiver through a process called resonant magnetic induction. One charger built by New York-based startup Hevo Power is already installed at Alphabet’s headquarters in California, IEEE Spectrum reports, while a second company, Momentum Dynamics, has set up a charger at Google’s secretive X research division in Philadelphia.
The transmitter, which can be “embedded like a manhole cover,” allows a car to park over it in order to charge rather than be manually connected. The wireless charging system hints at Google’s intentions for its self-driving vehicles. Rather than selling the cars to individuals, it could deploy a fleet of vehicles that can be commanded like taxis through an app and can make pit stops to charge themselves between customers.
One prototype autonomous car that Google demonstrated in 2014 has no steering wheel or pedals and has been touted by the company’s self-driving programme director Chris Urmson as a potential mode of transport for children, the disabled or elderly. “We’ve heard countless stories from people who need a fully self-driving car today,” Urmson wrote in a blogpost in December. “As for those of us who can drive, we’re not happy either. “Having a self-driving car shoulder the entire burden of getting from A to B—and knowing that many other vehicles out there are also navigating autonomously—could make a big difference.”