As first mentioned on The Verge that Google’s experiment with their self-driving car has certainly come a long way from being made legal in California a few years back, and it seems that the tech giant wants their autonomous vehicles to live an untethered life, too, as there are plans to include wireless charging capability for their self-driving vehicles. FCC filings spotted by IEEE Spectrum suggest that Google is in the process of installing wireless charging systems at its headquarters campus and the nearby Castle facility—a former Air Force base where the company tests its self-driving cars.
Such a form of wireless charging might make use of manhole-style transmitters that are embedded in the pavement so that compatible vehicles will be able to be charged. The documents point to installations from Hevo Power and Momentum Dynamics, both of which offer systems that can charge cars, trucks, and buses using plates that sit on roads and driveways, while a receiver attached to the underside of the vehicle takes the power and siphons it into the battery pack.
In the short term, wireless car charging is seen as a home or office product — park your car overnight or during the workday and don’t bother plugging it in, basically — but companies like Qualcomm have variously suggested over the years that wireless chargers could someday be embedded in public roadways, enabling cars to stay charged even as they drive.
I suppose the end game would be to have these self-driving cars remain above a charging pad for a few minutes to gain some juice, and if they were to pass through a series of transmitters along the way, then the car would be constantly charged. The logistics involved would be rather huge to say the least, and it is also no guarantee that accidents won’t happen.