RETAILWIRE DISCUSSION TOPIC
Robots Pump Gas But Don’t Do Windows – 2/11/08
Throughout the U.S. (excepting New Jersey and Oregon) and many other parts of the world, if motorists want their car tanks filled with gas, they need to get out of the car and do it themselves. That may not be necessary in the future if a new gas-pumping robot created in the Netherlands catches on with gas station owners.
Last week, Nico van Staveren, the developer of the robot and a gas station owner himself, introduced the Tankpitstop robot to the public for the first time.
The robot works by sensing when a car pulls up to a pump and then opens the car’s gas cap and inserts the fuel nozzle in the same fashion as a human. (See a video of the TankPitstop in operation…) The robot determines how to fill the car properly from a database of automobiles and gas cap designs matched to manufacturer recommended fuel types.
Mr. van Staveren is hoping to have the Tankpitstop operating at several Dutch gas stations by the end of the year. The complete system costs $111,100 (75,000 euros).
Discussion questions: Do you think we will see gas stations being manned by robots in the future? Robotics are currently being used in pharmacies in the U.S. Do you see other applications for robots in various retail channels in the years to come?
My initial reaction is no–we won’t see this anytime soon. As already stated, high costs for the robot, thin industry margins and liability issues preclude early adoption. However, if costs can come down I can see it being implemented by a gas company positioning itself as cutting-edge.
As an Oregon resident, I must admit I like having my gas pumped for me. The most unusual part is most of the attendants are bright, pleasant and helpful. It took awhile to get used to (I’m originally from California), but now I like not having to smell like gasoline or get out in the elements. I hope the robots come to Oregon last. I can always visit one in California….
Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist
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