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Will the Coronavirus outbreak change the gas station forever?

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

Last week in our video 4 potential positive outcomes and opportunities from the Coronavirus Pandemic, I talked about several predictions for changes driven by the Coronavirus outbreak. Two of those dealt with contactless technology. The first discussed exchanging credit cards and cash (things that can carry diseases) for contactless payment technologies like wearables. The second suggested a potential shift in biometrics from fingerprint readers and palm scanners to contactless technology like facial recognition.

After posting that video, one of my Army buddies commented that he's always thought that the most disgusting thing he touches on a regular basis is the gas pump. It made me wonder, just how dirty is a gas pump? I submit Exhibit A:

I think we can agree the gas pump handle is pretty disgusting. So it got me thinking... Is there a technology out there that could fully automate the refueling of your car, so you don't even have to get out? Something where you just pull up and it does all the work for you without touching anything? Turns out, there's an app for that. This is the Fuelmatics 5000, brought to you by the Swedish company Fuelmatics. This fully-automated technology allows you to drive your car up to the pump, use an application on your phone to pick the type of gasoline you want and make your payment. Then, the robot opens your gas cap, fuels your car, and closes the cap. You get a receipt via the app and drive away. You don't have to touch anything.

So where does this leave the convenience store? If the whole purpose of the automated refueling station is that you don't have to get out of the car, does that mean that convenience stores are going to just disappear from gas stations everywhere? Probably not, but they may change drastically. Enter SmartMart, a fully-automated convenience store. It’s basically a giant (2,800 products) vending machine. You pull up, make your selections on a screen, and pay. (Obviously the touchscreen needs to be replaced by a smartphone application to eliminate contact.) Then the robotic vending system dispenses your selections via a conveyor belt, right to your window. Some gas stations have already adopted this technology, and even though they still have the old pumps, they’ve converted their convenience stores into SmartMarts.

So, is fully-automated fueling and fully-automated convenience stores the wave of the future?

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