The Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) just had their 2013 convention in Atlanta, and one of the hottest displays was a robot that will refill your gas tank for you in less time than you could do it yourself. But is this kind of like polishing the china on the Titanic?
What the Robot Does
Fair warning: this robot only works with cars that come with capless inserts for gas tanks, so it probably won’t work on your car if it’s more than a few years old.
Husky and Fuelmatic cooperated to develop this robot (as far as I can tell, it has neither name, nor numeric designation), which is capable of refilling your gas tank in 30 percent less time than it would take the average driver. First, the robot senses the fuel filler cap and uses its suction arm to open it (I’ve been assured this robot is not a Dalek, but one never knows), then inserts one of three nozzles into the tank. I presume these are for regular/premium/silver-type classifications, but I’d be interested to see whether or not diesel is incorporated into them.
Once the tank is full, the system shuts off the flow of fuel with a vacuum-based shutoff system. BOOM: robot gas station attendant.
Why This is Too Little Too Late
I apologize, I’m about to go real green on you here.
The harsh reality of fossil fuels is that eventually, we will have used up all of the fossils that turned into fuel. It’s probably going to happen in our lifetimes, or at least our childrens’ lifetimes, though the discovery of unconventional oil in the Middle East will soften the blow a bit.
As such, I’m generally confused why we’re spending our time developing a) technology to assist us in the use of a fuel that will need to be usurped by something renewable and clean in the near-ish future, and b) something to make the world lazier than it already is. If we really want to devote a lot of time to revolutionizing the way we think about cars, wouldn’t that time be better spent trying to make batteries last longer? Or testing hydrogen fuel cells to make them safer and more applicable to daily driving (instead of spaceflight)?
This is all not even taking into account the price of installation, which may well be reflected in the price of gasoline. The tragic downside of robots is that they are never cheap. While this particular robot is kind of cool in the way that a science fair project might be kind of cool, it doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of upsides for the consumer.
Check out the PEI convention’s video demonstration of the robot below.