Monday, August 15, 2016

Whither Gas Stations?

Earlier this morning I had my car filled with gas at Domo, one of the few service station chains that still employs people that pump gas and wipe your windows. While I was waiting for the fill-up to end, I couldn't help but imagine the days of gas stations with any employees at all will probably come to an end within the next decade or so. There's no technological barrier to eliminating employees entirely; we can already pay by debit or credit to unlock the pump, and if there really is a market for service, we must be pretty close to developing a robot arm that can flick open your fuelling port, twist off the cap, insert the spout and start pumping gas into your tank. When electric stations become commonplace, I imagine automatic fuelling will be even easier; just drive your car atop a charge pad, wave your debit or credit card in the general direction of the scanner, and you're done.

I had some trouble finding out how many gas station attendants remain in Canada; according to Service Canada, there are 2,800 in Quebec. I'm not going to do the math, but maybe that amounts to about 10,000 spread across the country, assuming each province and territory have roughly the same number of gas station attendants per capita.

Imagine you're camping in a national park a few years from now, and you notice your car is just about out of energy. You won't need to worry; you can just tell it to go charge up at the nearest station. Maybe the station will even pop your trunk and fill it with snacks, all without human intervention.

Of course, when all the jobs are being done by robots and software, few of us will be able to afford luxuries such as camping trips, vehicles and food, unless of course we decide, as a civilization, that we need to look at new paradigms to address the overwhelming wave of change that's breaking across us right now. What a time to be alive...on the cusp of utopia or cataclysm. 

1 comment:

susan_rn92 said...

Gas stations are not the only industry with a weaning workforce. As the technology increases, the owner "teaches" the customer how to make the purchase for themselves. Grocery and other stores are in the process now with self serve aisles. Banks save lots of money if you use the instant teller. Soon fast food places near you like McDonalds will offer computer ordering kiosks to greet you. I would be happy to use these technologies, if alternate jobs for the people were displaced were available. Let me know when that happens. I won't hold my breath.