A Robot To Top Up Your Tesla

The convenience of just plugging in your car in the evening and not going into a gas station is great as long as you remember to do the plugging. You really don’t want to get caught with an empty battery while you’re in a rush. [Pat Larson]’s Tesla plugging robot might be a handy insurance policy if you count forgetfulness among your weaknesses.

The robot consists of a standard Tesla charging plug attached to a 2-axis robotic arm mounted on [Pat]’s garage wall. Everything is controlled by a Python script running on Raspberry Pi 4. After taking a picture with a camera module, it uses a Tensor Flow Lite machine learning model to determine the position of a reflector on the charging port cover. The platform moves back and forth to align with the charging port, after which it opens the charging port using the Tesla API. It then extends the arm towards the charging port, using ultrasonic proximity sensors for distance control, and again uses the camera module and Tensor Flow to look for the illuminated Tesla logo adjacent to the charging port. The charge plug is flipped out using a large servo, and after some final position adjustment, it takes the plunge. While robot won’t be winning any interior design contests, it does the job well, and adds a bit of convenience and peace of mind.

Other Tesla hacks we’ve seen include building a working Model S for $6500, turning an old Honda into a speed demon using Tesla parts, and a Casio F-91W that can unlock your Tesla.

37 thoughts on “A Robot To Top Up Your Tesla

  1. Might it be more accurate to print some high contrast QR style vinyl stickers to identify the charging hole? Four small ones around it, placed at known distances from each other?

    1. Was thinking the same, with simple colored retro reflector label.
      Position with lid closed the open the lid.

      Is there protection in car against driving away with charger connected?

    1. If it’s in your garage it’s likely empty of people. Cargo’s a fair point though, maybe you come home with some DIY supplies and don’t immediately remove them from the boot. I thought teslas had a way to raise and lower the suspension, is that exposed via the tesla API?

    1. No. They had a prototype where the whole battery could be dropped from the bottom of the car and replaced on the fly, giving you 100s of miles of range in minutes. But this was never commercialized.

        1. Or the fact that the battery frame is an important part of the rigidity of the whole chassis, and making it removable required adding a second bottom pan to the car above the battery, adding greatly to the mass of the vehicle and to the production costs.

          It was a publicity stunt to drive up the hype and get money from investors – little lies to keep the hopes up.

  2. With all the automated stuff the Tesla has I can’t believe that the car isn’t smart enough to know it’s in the garage and needs to be charged. It could easily send a text to your phone using your WiFi.

    1. The car comes with a mobile app that gives you push notifications on your phone about charging events. Doesn’t even rely on wifi; the car has an always-on 4g connection. There’s a public API for this stuff too.

      It also knows when it’s in your garage (from GPS coordinates). They automatically open your garage door as you approach your house, for example.

      So if your idea is to write an app that lets your car warn “hey I’m at home but not plugged in!” then you can do that in an afternoon.

      There’s still value in a robot that can automate this small physical task.

  3. The whole machine learning approach here is an overkill IMO. It’s just looking for a known pattern in a rather invariant environment, could be done using more convenient methods.

  4. I wonder if you could have conductive strips running lengthways down the car, like racing stripes, and bare wires hanging from the ceiling of the garage. As long as you’re lined up within a reasonable tolerance, there would be no need to plug anything in.

  5. I call this a new level in the height of idiocy. First it was lights that automatically turned on and off because people have become TOO BRAIN DED. Now we have to bring in the issue of recharging? Wasn’t it bad enough when people started forgetting they needed to put gas in the tanks?

    1. Don’t even get me started with TV remotes! Are people really too lazy to get up and walk to the TV to change channels or adjust volume?
      And whats with vehicle power door locks?! Were people too lazy and forgetful to look at each door and lock them individually? And now I hear you can lock and unlock all doors with the push of a button, from a small wireless remote at 30 feet away!

  6. Speaking of forgetting things, there’s an often neglected fact that a Tesla car will self-discharge to the tune of 2 kWh per day because it’s always running a laptop’s worth of power to keep the cellular connection up. That can easily be $200 per year extra cost of electricity.

    And people brag about how you save money because a Tesla never needs an oil change etc. I change my oils and filters for less.

    1. If you need a car you’ll be saving more than that on fuel, otherwise sell your car and rent one on those rare occasions you need one, then you get to drive something that’s reasonably maintained and doesn’t cost much.

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