Tesla's robo-snake charger prototype is our new car overlord

Tesla Motors shows off a prototype car charger of the future and it looks like a bendy robot straight out of science fiction.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Tesla snake charger
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Tesla snake charger
Tesla builds Doc Ock's arm. Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

In the future, we will all drive electric cars, and semi-sentient robots will refuel them for us. That seems to be the way things are heading after Tesla Motors shared a video Thursday of a prototype charger attaching itself to a Model S. This would be no big deal, except the charger requires no human interaction and looks like a cross between a "Battlestar Galactica" Cylon and a snake.

The sci-fi-looking device is aimed at making life easier for Tesla owners. If it goes into widespread use at some point, then drivers could just hang out in their air-conditioned cars while the charger does its work. If you had one at home, you could just park in your garage, let your intelligent charger hook up with your car and go right on about your day.

The segmented silver creation looks like something that would jump out of the shadows in a "Star Trek" movie. It's a little bit creepy and a whole lot of wonderful. You have a technologically advanced car, so you might as well have a high-tech bendable charger doohickey to go with it.

Tesla has been systematically working to build a charging infrastructure to support its electric cars. Elon Musk's company has developed a global network of free Superchargers along battery swap stations designed to get owners charged up and back on the road quickly.

Musk himself hinted at the charger project back in December by tweeting about it, likening the as-yet-unseen device to a "solid metal snake." In October 2014, Tesla noted that it is working on an "electrically opening, self-closing charge port door on Dual Motor Model S." The hands-off door would work nicely with the automated charger.

The prototype seems to work pretty smoothly. It starts straight up in the air and then bends, searching for the charge port on the car. It finds it quickly and plugs in, turning the port green to indicate it's working. This would be way more fun than connecting it yourself. Now Tesla just needs to build a multi-snake version of this thing and dress it up like Doc Ock.

CNET's Chris Paukert contributed to this report.