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Follow the Technology

Every time technology races far ahead of the law’s ability to understand and regulate it, these gaps open up new and exciting opportunities for attorneys. This has never been truer than today, when a cascade of new technologies continually overwhelms existing law. Examples are all around us: the Internet; mobile communications; unmanned aerial vehicles (a.k.a. drones), biotechnology, personalized therapies, high-speed rail, self-driving cars and trucks, and the Internet of Things (IoT), to name just a few.

Let’s take just one example of a cutting edge technology that has suddenly emerged, with the potential to earn both hi-tech and old-line manufacturing and construction firms billions of dollars while, at the same time, raising legal issues that will require new ways of applying existing law and the crafting of a whole new legal/regulatory regime.

You Take the Old Road…I’ll Take the eRoad

The biggest limitations on the proliferation of electric vehicles (EVs) are (1) their range and the problem of a scarcity of far-between charging stations, and (2) the time it takes to recharge a spent EV battery. EV manufacturing firms and tech companies have been wrestling with how to overcome these deficiencies for at least a decade, during which they have focused on improving battery storage capabilities (a very slow process) and software upgrades such as the one Tesla developed to assist its EV owners escape Hurricane Irma.

Several other firms have taken an entirely different approach to the problem. Last month, a Swedish consortium and the Swedish Transport Administration https://trafikverket.se/en/startpage/ unveiled eRoadArlanda, https://eroadarlanda.com/ the first road in the world that recharges electric vehicles as they drive. Two kilometers of electric rail were installed along a public road outside Stockholm. When EVs drive over this road, energy is transferred to them via a special conductive arm fitted to the bottom of the vehicle.

The electrified road works by transferring energy to the vehicle from a rail in the road through a movable arm that detects the location of the rail in the road. As long as the vehicle is above the rail, the contact will be in a lowered position.

The charging system uses the principle of induced currents – the same technique that powers electric toothbrushes. An electrically live coil is buried under the road, and when a car equipped with another coil passes over it, it induces a current in the car’s coil, which in turn feeds into the EV’s battery and keeps it topped off.

The designers say that this solution is both easy to install and sustain as well as being cost-effective. It has the potential to revolutionize road transportation, advance the move from fossil-fuel to electrical transport, liberating countries from much of their fossil-fuel dependence. Despite the official U.S. position denying the reality of climate change, climate-smart road transport such as this can do much toward tempering the effects of a warming planet.

A complete road network equipped with induction pads would allow EVs to travel distances unlimited by battery capacity.

A similar concept is currently undergoing trials in France. Induction charging technology is currently being installed at a test track near Paris using U.S. firm Qualcomm https://qualcomm.com wireless induction charging equipment. The French trial will test all extremes of operation, including wet weather, vehicles passing over the coils out of alignment, power supply variations and hardware durability after extended use.

This innovation represents a big step forward in the development of the Internet of Things (IoT). In this case, the marriage of charging rails with existing roads has powerful implications for revamping entire concepts on the cheap.

Attorneys who keep up with innovations such as this are the ones who will go to the head of the pack.