Who'll need a cord to recharge a Google driverless car of the future? No one because the company is experimenting with a wireless system to recharge the electric vehicles instead of using old-fashioned cords.
The tech giant is already testing wireless charging for the cars, according to filings with the US Federal Communications Commission, reports IEEE Spectrum.
The system transfers power from a transmitter embedded in the ground to a receiver on the underside of an electric vehicle using the principle of resonant magnetic induction to charge the car's on-board batteries — a bit like inductive charging for smartphones. But rather than resting directly on a charging pad like a phone, the car stops over a charger embedded in the pavement like a manhole cover. Once the car is securely parked over the charger, the power transfer begins.
Google is trying out systems created by two companies. Hevo Power, a New York–based start-up, received permission from the FCC to installed an experimental charger at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Momentum Dynamics, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, followed.
Nissan already demonstrated inductive charging of cars in November 2015.
Initially, a self-driving car would position itself briefly over a charging pad between rides. But ultimately, an infrastructure would be created that would allow a car to continually recharge its batteries as it travels along a road. This could allow carmakers to use smaller, cheaper, lighter batteries than those required for today's electric vehicles.
The charge-on-the-go concept is already being tested in the UK, notes Mashable. Highways England announced in 2015 that it was launching an 18-month scheme to test charging lanes after completing an early feasibility study. (Though the testing isn't on public roads.)
In the experiment, vehicles were outfitted with wireless technology and special equipment was installed beneath roads to replicate motorway conditions. Electric cables buried under the surface generate electromagnetic fields to be picked up by a coil inside a traveling car and converted into electricity.
The tech news makes even more concrete the concept of an driverless car, which seemed only recently like a sci-fi dream. Even the US government is falling for the idea. In a major boost to the
continued development of the car, safety regulators have said the artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving Google car can now be considered a driver under federal law.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told the company in a letter that it "will interpret 'driver' in the context of Google's described motor vehicle design as referring to the (self-driving system), and not to any of the vehicle occupants."
The letter added: "We agree with Google that its (self-driving car) will not have a 'driver' in the traditional sense that vehicles have had drivers during the last more than one hundred years."
The decision is critical because it begins to pave the way for such things as car insurance and compliance with various state regulations.