Dec 19, 2011

Why Not Wi-Fi Cars?

Recently, on a commute to work, I heard a story on NPR  about a 22-year old inventor named Meredith Perry, who out of college started a company called UBeam around an invention she and a co-founder developed.  Essentially, her concept would allow users of cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. to charge their devices through Wi-Fi ... eliminating the need to plug in.  As the story goes:

"(T)he idea came to her when she went to class with a dead laptop and no power cord.  She wondered: Why can't I recharge without a cord?"  
While the story centered on this talented young woman and her trials and tribulations as she led  her company through shark infested (aggressive venture capitalists and competing technologies) business waters, I couldn't help but think of the larger implimcations for this technology.  If we are able to charge devices via Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly available ... everywhere ... does it not seem logical that we may someday drive a car that charges on the 4G (or xG) network while we drive?  Forget plugging in ... as long as you have Wi-Fi at home (and an unlimited data plan), your car would always be charging.  It's a cool concept to think about ... no more gas, no more plug in.

And in case you were thinking that this may be too good to be true, Ms. Perry describes the process as follows:
"What happens is, the ultrasound, which vibrates the air, vibrates what's called a piezoelectric transducer," she says. "And what happens is the ultrasound will vibrate the piezocrystals, and the crystals will move back and forth, and that will generate an electrical current."
Okay, so that didn't probably quench your underlying suspicions.  Regardless, this could potentially be a first step in a future where we begin to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.  Sure, we still need to generate electricity to power the Wi-Fi towers, build the cars and roads, etc ... I get it.  But this would be a nice step in the right direction.

UBeam demonstrated at D9 this summer, and like anything else, it's only a matter of time before the concept is infused with ungodly amounts of capital for development. 



And with cars like the Toyota Fun-Vii, using Wi-Fi  for our vehicles seems almost inevitable.  The uses are quite awesome!


And for a glimpse of how this car could look and function, see the video below.  Note at 00:58, the vacated parking place has a sign that appears to say "Wireless Charging" ... so, I'm not the first guy to think of this idea??  The crazy thing is ... we aren't that far from seeing something like this come to fruition: