CARL is here to see you. He’s a slightly creepy-sounding robot, and he’s popped round to charge your car up.
Don’t worry, Champion readers, this isn’t a terrible pitch for a really bad episode of Black Mirror in which the protagonist develops an unhealthy relationship with an artificial form of intelligence. Nope, if anything it’s slightly more surreal. A Chinese company that’s hoping to crack the UK market has developed patents for an autonomous device that tracks your car down and then charges it up, so you don’t have to.
In the meantime it’s developed a line-up of all-electric off-roaders, the first of which, the U5, is available to order this month. It’s also following some of its compatriots, notably Lynck & Co, by refusing to have anything so resolutely old hat as dealerships. To buy one you have to do it all through your smartphone. They’ve also got a BMW X4-esque coupé crossover on the way; the jury’s out on whether it’ll be any good to drive, but it certainly looks the part.
So where does CARL – and that really is the robot’s name – step in? Well, the idea is that you fire up the Aiways app on your smartphone when your U5 is running low on juice, and he’ll find it, wherever it’s parked, and ‘fill’ it up with electricity. CARL uses GPS to find your pride and joy and can charge up the batteries to 80 per cent charge in 50 minutes. CARL might have a stupid name – apologies if you’re reading this and you’re called Carl, but any name sounds crass if you write it in ALL CAPS and apply it to a robot. He also looks like a cross between a food blender and a prop from a 1980s episode of Doctor Who, but he’s succeeded. He’s made me want to buy an Aiways U5.
I’d happily snap up a U5, just so I can leave it parked on Rannoch Moor on a bleak Sunday night. Perhaps I might indulge in a spot of creative parking at the top of the Honister Pass. If I’m feeling really cruel, I might book a cross-Channel ferry, drive on, wait ‘til it’s halfway to Calais and then decide that my Aiways needs topping up. Forget charging in the busier bits of Britain – our charging infrastructure’s a lot better than it was a decade ago, and I’m fairly confident most of us could find a charger ourselves.
CARL, on the other hand, only really makes sense in the few areas where you can’t do that. He’s like Liam Neeson in Taken. He has a very particular set of skills. He will find you. And he will charge your car up.
Bring it on, Mr Creepy-Sounding Robot. But if you can’t charge my car up at the side of a single-track road in Snowdonia when it’s lashing it down, I want my money back.
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly