The Robots Are Coming (To Pump Your Gas)

January 30, 2014

Much of Planet Earth is about to experience a major workforce shift. In the coming decades, entire categories of jobs will be eliminated thanks to automation. Coffee baristas, for example, are already being replaced by machines, and their close kin, waiters, aren't far behind. The same is likely true for bank tellers, postal workers, and many in-store clerks. 

Up next: gas station attendants, if Husky Corporation and Fuelmatics Systems have their way. Together, the two companies have invented an automated gas pump, which could dramatically change the way that drivers fuel up.

As you'll see in the video above, the system is fairly compact and appears easy to use. Drivers use a touchscreen to set the type of fuel they'd like, how much they'd like to purchase, and submit payment information. Then, sensors locate the gas panel, open it, and deploy a special nozzle for fueling.

The good news is that the Husky/Fuelmatics automated refueling system looks very convenient and user-friendly. It's also efficient: according to the inventors, the system reduces the time needed to fuel up by about 30 percent.

The bad news is that the system is fairly expensive for gas station owners -- around $50,000 per unit. And of course, it doesn't work with all cars, especially older models with screw-off caps on their gas tanks. (Though the inventors promise to deliver an adapter for such cars shortly.)

Automated fuel pumps may not sound like great news to gas station attendants (whose numbers are likely shrinking except in states like New Jersey and Oregon, where drivers are prohibited from pumping their own gas). But as we've seen before, automation doesn't necessarily lead to job losses. More often than not, it shifts employees to other areas, like robot construction and maintenance. The transition won't be smooth, but there's no denying the future. This is the price humans pay for being smart.

The real question is, how will Husky and Fuelmatics handle the coming transition to fuel-free electric vehicles? As battery capacity improves and along with it, inductive charging systems, will these two companies be able to adapt? We'll be watching -- provided our jobs aren't automated, of course.  

[via Mashable]


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