Are Robotic Arms the Next Evolution of Fueling Up?

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Are Robotic Arms the Next Evolution of Fueling Up?

A "smart" gas station in Hangzhou, China
The Hangzhou, China, "smart" gas station follows Alibaba's unstaffed convenience store test.

HANGZHOU, China — E-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will experiment with an unstaffed gas station that uses a robotic arm to fuel vehicles.

The location is scheduled to be built in its headquarters city Hangzhou by the end of October, reported Caixin Global.

The test location also includes an unstaffed convenience store based on Tao Café, a model Alibaba first rolled out in July. Customers can scan a QR code to enter the store, pick up their desired items and automatically pay at the checkout gate. Early results have reportedly shown an extremely low rate of error by the store's sensors and item recognition.

In 2018, the company will launch an updated version of the "smart" gas station that automatically recognizes information about customers and their cars, such as driver identity, vehicle model and fuel type.

Alibaba previously ventured into the fuels world in 2015, when it teamed up with the Chinese refiner Sinopec to launch an online industry supply system. Its affiliated mobile payment tool Alipay is also embedded in thousands of gas stations, according to the report.