There was a time when pulling into a service station would coincide with an attendant in a pressed uniform and a peaked cap running up to your car to ask if you’d like to fill ‘er up. That scene may be relegated to Mad Men, but a robotic replacement has arrived. At this month’s 2013 PEI Convention at the NACS Show in Atlanta, the Husky Corporation’s booth played host to a robotic fuel attendant called the Fuelmatics Automatic Refueling System (ARS) that the company is developing in collaboration with Stockholm-based Fuelmatics Systems AB.
The Fuelmatics ARS isn't much to look at. At first glance, it seems to be a fuel pump on a track that somebody forgot to install hoses on. That’s because it’s designed so the customer doesn't have to do anything. The robotic ARS handles all of the fueling operation and the customer doesn't even have to open the window.
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The customer drives up to the ARS and either uses a payment card or a smartphone app to purchase fuel. The Fuelmatics robot then looks for the refueling flap and opens it using a suction arm. It then inserts a hose into the refueling line and either fills the tank or dispenses the amount requested. With the app, opening the window isn't necessary and the receipt is sent by email or text. According to Fuelmatics, the whole operation takes 30 percent less time than conventional pumping.
Husky’s contribution to the system was through using venturi components to create a spout that could extend through a cap-less insert, which is becoming increasingly common on cars and is necessary for the system to work. Fuelmatics offers such inserts to purchasers of the system to sell to their customers and says it takes only a few seconds to install in place of the old fuel cap.
According to Fuelmatics, the ARS is vapor and spill free and is designed to work on all passenger cars and 4 x 4s that can receive fuel on either the left or right of the vehicle. The system is also equipped with a set of three nozzles, so it can pump petrol, diesel, or an alternative fuel. Its robotic design makes it compatible with unmanned mini-stations, traditional fueling stations, and hypermarkets.
Fuelmatics sees the ARS as increasing fuel sales by at least one car per hour and since the driver has nothing to do during fueling, the company points out that it’s another opportunity to sell advertising on the system’s screen. Fuelmatics sees it as not only attractive to people who don’t want to get out in the wet, but also elderly and disabled drivers.
"No one likes to refuel. It's a necessity. But our product eliminates some of the hassle. It’s faster, cleaner, more convenient, and more environmentally friendly with no vapor or spill at all," says Sten Corfitsen, Fuelmatics founder. "The Fuelmatics system makes self-service refueling obsolete."
Unfortunately, the ARS still does not clean windscreens, check the oil, or tell you the best way to get back to the main road.
The video below demonstrates the Fuelmatics ARS.