If you thought self-driving cars were the final frontier, it might surprise you to know some day soon, machines might pump your gas and schedule your maintenance
Vehicle Vending Machine
Robotic Parking Garages
Automated Auto Assembly
Automatic Car Washes
Drive-Through Gas Station
Automated Service Kiosk
Robot-Driven Race Cars
People talk about self-driving cars, but what about everything else that’s both automotive and automated? Here are some other machines that handle vehicular tasks without human intervention.
After buying a used vehicle through online auto retailer Carvana, you can opt to take delivery at one of the company’s “vending machines,” which are pre-loaded with cars awaiting their new owners. After you insert a special oversized coin, your vehicle slides out and rides down on a platform to greet you. It’s currently just a gimmick, but is this how we might buy our rides in future?
No longer science fiction, robotic parking garages are here. After you drive your car onto a platform and get out, the platter moves automatically inside the garage to an empty space. It’s very efficient because cars can be stacked millimetres apart from each other, since there’s no valet and so no need to open the doors. When you’re ready to leave, the platform brings your car back to you at the exit. (And yes, it’s the technology used in the vehicle vending machine.)
From a tiny number of robots used in auto plants as far back as the 1960s, these automated employees have been gaining ground on the assembly line. Robots are now used for numerous jobs, including welding, painting, and sealing. But they haven’t taken over completely yet, and some automakers are now using “co-bots.” These work with people on jobs that are difficult for a human to do alone, but which can’t be automated entirely.
Need an oil change, but haven’t gotten around to calling the dealer? Prepare for your vehicle to wirelessly contact the service department, tell the advisor exactly what it needs, and have the appointment appear on your phone. GM’s OnStar already sends a monthly report of oil life, tire pressure and other items to owners, and is working on a program that will continually diagnose the vehicle and warn if a malfunction is predicted.
You’ve been using them for so long that you don’t give them any thought, but automated car washes are pretty cool. The stationary ones use lasers to figure out how large your vehicle is, and adjust the spray and brushes to it. The code on your ticket also determines whether to give you the basic wash, or the all-out luxury job.
Jaguar recently announced a new system that it says is the “first payment system by a car.” When filling up at a Shell station, the driver just taps an icon on the car’s infotainment screen, and payment is automatically made through PayPal or Apple Pay. The screen can also log all the gas receipts for each journey. The system has launched in Britain and is expected to roll out worldwide.
Ever dream of the old days when an attendant pumped your gas? The next-best thing might be a robotic fuel pump. Swedish technology company Fuelmatics and U.S. gas company Husky are working on a pump that figures out where your fuel filler is, inserts a nozzle, and dispenses however much you’ve indicated on a touch-screen. Just don’t expect it to wash your windshield like the attendant once did.
Don’t want to deal with a service advisor? Ford is testing a 24/7 “smart service” kiosk that will let you drop off your keys and use a touchscreen to select the service you want. If you need a loaner, the kiosk gives you a key for one. The system sends an alert to your phone when your car’s finished, and if the shop is closed, gives you back your keys.
Yes, a new championship called Roborace will begin pitting battery-driven autonomous cars in a race against each other starting in 2018. The four-wheeled computers will use cameras and radar to guide themselves around the track in a contest for the quickest lap time—and they’re no slowpokes either, reaching speed of close to 320 km/h (200 mph).