Shell's robotic gas pump to be unreliable and too costly

Jul 20, 2000 02:00 AM

Shell Oil has pulled the plug on its robotic gas pump because the technology that automatically refuels vehicles is unreliable and too costly. Shell began test-marketing the pump in March at a filling station in the Indianapolis suburb of Westfield. By mid-June, the equipment had been removed.
"We had some reliability issues," said Jerry Buri, project manager for Shell, said. "There were times when we had problems with our system -- we expected there would be some." Buri would not elaborate on the problems, but said the robotics did not always work as designed.

Shell is putting the project -- called SmartPump -- on hold indefinitely, Buri said. The Westfield Shell station had the only robotic fuelling system open for public use. About 275 people were routinely using the system, but it wasn't enough to cover costs.
Interested customers paid a $ 20 deposit for a special, spring-loaded gas cap. They also had to place computer chips containing vehicle information in their windshields. Those customers have received refunds.
Shell Oil and HR Textron spent eight years developing the SmartPump, which used cameras, sensors and robotics to guide the fuel pump nozzle to the gas tank. A suction-like device opened the door to the gas tank.

Source: AP
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