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ST. LOUIS -- The winners of several Grammy awards last night from the band Daft Punk are not the only robots grabbing attention. Much closer to the convenience store industry, robotic gas pumps could be the wave of the future, especially in cold weather towns.
According to a report by NBC 2 in St. Louis, the Gateway to the West could offer robotic gas pumps at select gas stations in the near future. Husky Corp. showed off its robotic equipment to the news outlet.
Husky executive Brad Baker likened the experience to a drive-thru and said his company's product could be ready for regulatory testing in nine months. He expects the robotic gas pumps to first appear in St. Louis before becoming available nationwide.
"We already have drive-thru McDonald's, drive-thru banks and drive-thru car washes," said Baker.
Husky partnered with Swedish company Fuelmatics Systems to design the pumps. Infrared red lights and cameras locate the fuel door and then an arm with a suction cup opens the door. A nozzle then extends into the fuel tank and releases the desired amount of fuel. Once the gas tank is full, the nozzle returns to the pump.
These pumps cost $50,000 each and are compatible with cars without gas caps that screw on and off. For consumers with such gas caps, a $5 adapter is expected to become available, noted Baker. Gas station owners could recoup some of the costs by charging consumers more for the convenience of the robotic pump, he added.
The robotic pumps dispense fuel faster than humans and allow consumers to remain in their vehicles during the fueling process, Baker told NBC 2. He predicts robotic fueling will be tied to mobile payments, meaning a customer won't even need to open their window to complete a fueling transaction.
"I think it's going to have an appeal in northern regions, especially where weather is really bad," he said.