Instead of getting out of their cars every time they need fuel up, drivers in Finland now have the option of relaxing in their vehicles while a gas-pumping robot fills their tank for them.
The challenge: Approximately 39 million drivers fuel up their cars each day in the US. At best, the process is a necessary inconvenience, but if the weather is particularly hot or cold, pumping gas can be downright unpleasant.
For drivers with disabilities, meanwhile, pumping gas can be physically demanding or even impossible. In the latter situations, they might try to seek assistance from a gas station worker, but if only one person is on the clock, they may be stuck with an empty tank.
Drivers in New Jersey or Oregon, on the other hand, are not even allowed to pump their own gas; the law requires them to wait until an attendant comes by to do it for them.
The gas-pumping robot will open the fuel tank and dispense the gas autonomously.
Full service: Denmark-based company Autofuel believes its gas-pumping robot, which can be installed right next to existing dispensers, is the future of refueling.
To use the Autofuel system, customers must first sign up for the service, providing details such as their license plate number, desired fuel type, and payment information. They must also install a special gas tank cap on their vehicle.
When the driver approaches an Autofuel-equipped pump, they’ll see a screen that tells them where to park their vehicle — similar to the systems at automatic car washes that will tell you to pull up to a certain point before putting your car in neutral.
Once parked, the system will use the car’s license plate to identify the customer. The gas-pumping robot will then open the fuel tank and dispense the gas autonomously. When it’s finished, the customer will see a green light that lets them know they can drive away.
Looking ahead: Back in 2018, Autofuel launched a pilot project with oil company Neste to test the second-generation of its gas-pumping robot at a filling station in Finland. In 2022, it began testing the third gen system at a Neste station just north of Helsinki.
CEO Jonas Thor Olsen told Petrol Plaza in November 2022 that Autofuel is nearing the end of its testing phase and preparing for commercialization. He didn’t say what the robot will cost, but presumably the idea is that the convenience will draw customers to Autofuel-equipped stations.
“The beauty of Autofuel is that we can adapt it to any kind of fuel – EV charger, CNG, hydrogen … The game changer will be autonomous vehicles. You won’t have humans fueling autonomous vehicles. The general purpose of robots is the opposite,” he said.
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