Electric Cars

Electrify America and Stable Auto are testing robotic EV chargers for self-driving cars

It's like Tesla's automated charging arm, except it's probably not vaporware.

As far as robot arms are concerned, this one is sorta friendly-lookin'.

Electrify America

Electric vehicle charging points are great to see popping up in all corners of the globe, but when it comes to future autonomous vehicles, they're sort of incompatible. After all, who will be there to plug the vehicle into the charger? Electrify America is working on a solution.

Electrify America announced on Thursday that it has signed an agreement with Stable Auto, a San Francisco-based EV fleet charging company, to create automated charging solutions for future self-driving vehicles. The program will run at a pilot site in downtown San Francisco, which seems like as good a place as any to deploy tech for AVs.

The two companies anticipate opening the station in early 2020. It'll use Electrify America's 150-kilowatt charger, and Stable will contribute its scheduling software and the underlying robotic technology that actually attaches the chargers to the vehicles in question. The companies will take what they learn from this pilot and apply it to larger-scale endeavors in the future. After all, it'll be quite some time before autonomous vehicles truly show up.

This is what Electrify America and Stable envision the first robotic EV charging spaces to look like. Pull up, get charged, drive away. Easy peasy.

Electrify America

It should be pretty straightforward, with a car sliding into a parking spot while the arm extends to make the connection. The robotic arm doesn't look much different than the types of robots you might see in, say, a car assembly facility. Heck, you probably don't even need an autonomous vehicle to take advantage of this system -- just show up, park the car, walk away and let the robots do the rest.

"Autonomous vehicles will play an important role in the future of driving, particularly with fleets, and tailored charging options for self-driving EVs will be critical to develop that effort," said Wayne Killen, director of infrastructure planning and business development at Electrify America, in a statement. "We're excited to partner with Stable to be at the forefront of learning more and developing those charging solutions."

Electrify America and Stable aren't the first companies to play with the idea of automated charging. Way back in 2015, Tesla created a properly creepy robotic charging arm that can seek out and connect its charger to a Tesla vehicle. While Tesla owners can open their charge ports through the app and in other ways, this robotic arm has yet to see the light of day. Maybe once Skynet gains sentience.