Apple car could be recharged by a vehicle-seeking robot in your garage

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in General Discussion
Apple's future car from 'Project Titan' could be accompanied by an accessory for the home to help recharge the electric vehicle, consisting of a small robot capable of hooking the car up to an electrical point below the vehicle to acquire more power.

A Lexus fitted with an early Apple self-driving testbed
A Lexus fitted with an early Apple self-driving testbed


The long-in-development "Project Titan," the name used to cover all of Apple's automotive efforts, is believed in part to consist of a vehicle design, one that is powered by electricity. While there has been plenty of discussion about Apple's car design ideas, the iPhone maker has also turned its attention to other related areas, namely solving the problem of recharging the vehicle.

To obtain more energy while parked at home, an electric car could be plugged in to the local power supply overnight, making it ready to go the following morning after a few hours drawing current. While practical, the process does rely on the driver or another member of the household to remember to plug the supply cord into the car at night.

Even worse, drivers have to remember to unplug the cord in the morning, or face the prospect of pulling apart the cord or ripping the recharging device off the wall as it follows the vehicle out of the garage.

In a patent granted to Apple by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday titled "Charging system," it seems one answer to the problem is to take it out of the hands of drivers entirely, via automation.

In short, Apple's answer is to create a device that rests on the floor that can move around once triggered. After moving into position, the device then applies power to the vehicle by a base-mounted receiver. Another trigger could be used to disconnect the unit and to retract it out of the way.

An example illustration of the corded robot and a wireless recharging plate below a vehicle
An example illustration of the corded robot and a wireless recharging plate below a vehicle


In Apple's proposal, the unit could carry a power cord for a physical connection for transfers, or could use a coil-based wireless charging system. The unit is also able to move on its own, possibly by using motors and wheels, with detection systems allowing it to avoid any obstacles on the floor as it shifts into position.

Since it is likely to have a trailing cable, the system would also have to use the obstacle detection system to calculate the optimal route to its destination. Not only would this be due to a limited amount of cable, but also to prevent the cable from becoming an obstacle in its own right, such as by being driven over by the car as it departs.

To aid the device in getting to where it needs to be, the car can have an alignment structure to guide the charging cord connector into the right place in the vehicle. Apple also proposes the use of light detectors and emitters, cameras, magnetic sensors, and radios to help the unit determine its location relative to the base of the vehicle.

Examples of a contact-based charging and cord deposition system
Examples of a contact-based charging and cord deposition system


Apple files numerous patents and applications on a weekly basis, and while the documents do serve as a guide to where Apple's research and development efforts go, the existence of a filing is not a guarantee it will make an appearance in a future product or service.

It is firmly believed the "Charging system" patent is for an Apple-designed car due to the 26 references to the word "vehicle" and derivatives throughout the document. The nature of the device also has applications elsewhere, such as for enterprise or industrial recharging of moving machinery, reducing the work of employees.

"Project Titan" has been rumored to be some form of electric vehicle, and at one point even an electric-powered van. There has even been the hiring of Tesla's engineering VP in charge of powertrains in March, further indicating an electric vehicle was in development.

Patents and applications have also hinted at such a vehicle's development. For example, one from June proposed ways to fill the floor of a car with batteries, while a 2018 filing revealed the development of high-voltage power converters intended for sports cars.

In May, it was reported Apple was building large drive rooms in California, for the development and testing of advanced battery technology that could one day be used in a car.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    Apple hates cables! :)

    razorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 23
    Wow the stuff rich guys come up with...
    dysamoriaminicoffeeCarnage
  • Reply 3 of 23
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,151moderator
    I want this for my iPhone. I come home, set it down somewhere and a little robotic weasel/portable power pack seeks it out and charges it with its lightning connector tipped tail.
    beowulfschmidtalanhrandominternetpersonStrangeDaysdkhaleyCarnagewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    If it is that difficult for the owner of this type of vehicle to plug-in the cable to recharge the vehicle, I'm not sure that said owner should be allowed to be driving in the first place... ;)
    alanhmaltzdysamoriaCarnagewatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,729member
    Will it be USB C?
    Carnagewatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 23
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,382member
    mobird said:
    If it is that difficult for the owner of this type of vehicle to plug-in the cable to recharge the vehicle, I'm not sure that said owner should be allowed to be driving in the first place... ;)
    A convenience can be offered for reasons others than difficulty.
    StrangeDaysMplsPwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 23
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,464member
    spice-boy said:
    Wow the stuff rich guys come up with...
    If you are a peasant you have no business reading this article 😦
    edited September 17
  • Reply 8 of 23
    No owner of a current electric car has to remember to unplug the charging cable before driving off.  All modern EV’s - Tesla’s, Leafs, Bolts — all have automatic interlocks that prevent the car from being moved if the cable is attached.   So there is no safety advantage to this Apple “innovation.”  
    As to the convenience aspect — Tesla has talked for years about plans for robotic charging cable attachments for their cars, not just at home but also at their Superchargers.  Hasn’t happened yet, but the idea is not new.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 9 of 23
    This invention will put my garage servants out of their jobs.  I'll have to find something else for them to do.
    dewmerazorpitSpamSandwichwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    Yay, more patents for things we can easily live without.

    Seriously, is it that hard to plug in and then unplug a power cable?
  • Reply 11 of 23
    spice-boy said:
    Wow the stuff rich guys come up with...
    Yes, like commercial air travel. Had they not pioneered it we wouldn’t have affordable air travel for anyone today. That’s how technology works — expensive to start, cheaper when mass produced. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 23

    No owner of a current electric car has to remember to unplug the charging cable before driving off.  All modern EV’s - Tesla’s, Leafs, Bolts — all have automatic interlocks that prevent the car from being moved if the cable is attached.   So there is no safety advantage to this Apple “innovation.”  
    As to the convenience aspect — Tesla has talked for years about plans for robotic charging cable attachments for their cars, not just at home but also at their Superchargers.  Hasn’t happened yet, but the idea is not new.
    Patents aren’t for ideas (“flying car”), rather they’re for implementations (how your anti-grav engine works). So filing for a patent protects their implementation of this idea. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 23
    lkrupp said:
    spice-boy said:
    Wow the stuff rich guys come up with...
    If you are a peasant you have no business reading this article 😦
    At least I'm not one of the 3 Stooges.
  • Reply 14 of 23

    spice-boy said:
    Wow the stuff rich guys come up with...
    Yes, like commercial air travel. Had they not pioneered it we wouldn’t have affordable air travel for anyone today. That’s how technology works — expensive to start, cheaper when mass produced. 
    Yes and commercial airlines are wonderful unless you have to fly somewhere. Not all ideas coming from the valley are good ones this one is a solution without the problem like, I wish there was a flying spoon which could feed me breakfast. 
  • Reply 15 of 23
    I want this for my iPhone. I come home, set it down somewhere and a little robotic weasel/portable power pack seeks it out and charges it with its lightning connector tipped tail.
    Maybe Roomba could work on that. 😉
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 23
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,729member
    mobird said:
    If it is that difficult for the owner of this type of vehicle to plug-in the cable to recharge the vehicle, I'm not sure that said owner should be allowed to be driving in the first place... ;)
    My brother in law has a plug-in Prius. Their electric rates are significantly higher during certain times of the day, so they would routinely leave the car unplugged when they came home and plug it in later on when the rates were lower. Not surprisingly, it would get forgotten on a regular basis as well. A system like this could be set so plug in the car at a certain time of day to minimize electricity costs. 

    One can also imagine a scenario where a couple has 2 cars and one charger. Having the ability to automatically switch from one car to another when the first car was finished charging would be incredibly convenient. 

    I know people for whom mobility and or using their hands is difficult d/t chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

    If you even try to use a bit of imagination, you can think of many scenarios where this would be quite useful.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 23
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,198member
    Anything floor-based would be difficult for people who live in snowy/slushy/wintercrap regions where the garage floor is a mess in the winter. A gantry based design or a robot arm that extends from a side wall might make more sense if you need a physical charging connector. This would be not unlike the in-flight refueling apparatus used by the military. But ultimately some sort of ceiling mounted wireless 3D antenna array device that uses beamforming and beamsteering to focus a high power charging beam on a fairly small target receiver on the vehicle's roof, truck lid, or hood may be a better way to go. Such a system could service multiple vehicles as long as the targets are within line of sight. I suppose the charging beam could be low frequency inductive, RF, or possibly laser based. I'm imagining a disco ball kind of thing hanging from your garage ceiling that communicates with your vehicles and juices them all up whenever they are parked in the garage.
    razorpitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 23
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 1,074member
    dewme said:
    Anything floor-based would be difficult for people who live in snowy/slushy/wintercrap regions where the garage floor is a mess in the winter. A gantry based design or a robot arm that extends from a side wall might make more sense if you need a physical charging connector. This would be not unlike the in-flight refueling apparatus used by the military. But ultimately some sort of ceiling mounted wireless 3D antenna array device that uses beamforming and beamsteering to focus a high power charging beam on a fairly small target receiver on the vehicle's roof, truck lid, or hood may be a better way to go. Such a system could service multiple vehicles as long as the targets are within line of sight. I suppose the charging beam could be low frequency inductive, RF, or possibly laser based. I'm imagining a disco ball kind of thing hanging from your garage ceiling that communicates with your vehicles and juices them all up whenever they are parked in the garage.
    Immediately thought the same thing. Plus so much crud build up on the bottom of cars, what do you do when it either starts to melt on top of the robot, or starts to melt then re-freezes in the garage.

    Neat idea, interested in seeing if they considered all that.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 23
    How about this?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 23

    Apple car could be recharged by a vehicle-seeking robot in your garage




    watto_cobra
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