Volkswagen teams up with Kuka for car service robots

Posted on 10 Jul 2017 by Michael Cruickshank

German automobile manufacturing conglomerate Volkswagen AG (VW) has announced a partnership with robotics firm Kuka to develop robots designed to service its cars.

Volkswagen will work with Kuka to develop robots to charge its EVs. Image courtesy of Volkswagen.
Volkswagen will work with Kuka to develop robots to charge its EVs – image courtesy of Volkswagen.

Currently, Kuka is one of the largest manufacturers of industrial robotic systems in Germany, and thus represented a natural partner for VW.

Specifically, VW is looking to pair robots developed by Kuka with its new forthcoming fleet of electric and autonomous vehicles.

“We are working intensively on structuring the mobility of tomorrow. This is not simply about innovative vehicle concepts but encompasses completely new requirements in the service sector,” said VW CEO Matthias Müller in a statement.

While the details of this partnership are not yet fully clear, one of the first projects which the companies will work together on is a robot able to charge an electric vehicle.

As part of a system which VW is calling ‘e-smart Connect’ these robots will be able to autonomously connect a car to a charging system once its driver has parked it in a specific designated location.

Such a concept is not exactly new however, with Tesla revealing video of a robotic arm able to charge its vehicles as far back as 2015.

Beyond this charging service, VW and Kuka are also looking to explore a range of other service robot possibilities.

“Autonomous vehicles will contribute to making mobility safer, simpler and more convenient. This includes innovative services associated with the automobile,” said Ulrich Eichhorn, the head of R&D at Volkswagen Group.

“Our aim is to use the new strategic partnership to develop other opportunities in this area.”

The full sum which VW is investing into this project has so far not been revealed.

Volkswagen’s big plans for future vehicles

VW’s desire to pair robotic systems with its electric and autonomous vehicles is just one part of a massive high-tech expansion the company is planning in the coming years.

By the end of 2018, the company plans to have more than 10 new electric vehicles on the market with a further 30 models following by 2025.

Meanwhile, its Porsche subsidiary is busy developing a network of electric charging stations, and Audi, also owned by VW, is pushing ahead with self-driving systems.