On your next visit to a Sinopec (中石化) service station, expect to fill up your gas tank with the help of a robot instead of a human worker.
Sinopec, one of China’s two largest refiners — the other being PetroChina (中石油) — recently established a joint venture named Yijiayou Intelligent Robotics Co. Ltd, with HangTianYunJi (航天云机), a Beijing-based startup currently making primarily robots servicing gas stations.
With a registered capital base of 100 million yuan (US$14.75 million) and 50/50 owned, the new venture’s business scope spans manufacturing and sale of service consumer-grade robots and development of smart robots.
According to media reports, the device, reportedly developed by Sinopec itself, is capable of eight functions ranging from automatic identification to accurate positioning, and from simulation control to real-time feedback.
It also comes with characteristics such as a light weight, user information safeguards and explosion-proof mechanisms.
Screenshot from an online video clip
The robot, when at work, can operate an arm to identify and open a car gas cap, insert the oil gun and fill the gas tank.
Moreover, the gizmo is able to recognize the color, shape, size and position of gas caps of different car brands and models, as well as figure out ways to open them on its own.
After the fill is over, the robot automatically removes the gun, closes the cap and returns to the base attached to a gasoline pump.
The driver doesn’t need to step out the car throughout the filling process and it takes only 180 seconds for the robot to finish the job in a contactless environment, said the refiner.
Unlike in many Western countries, where gas pumping is done manually by the motorists themselves, service stations across China are still largely staffed by workers.
This wasn’t the first time the state-owned refiner decided to branch out into robotics to experiment with ways ostensibly to save up on labor cost.
Media reports allege that as early as September 2021, Sinopec had deployed a handful of robots on a trial run at one of its service stations in Nanning, capital city of southwestern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.