Does The World Need Interactive Gas Pumps? Clue: No

November 23, 2016 by Dave Haynes


Via Adweek

Is the two to three minutes you spend at a gas pump a tedious, endless ordeal, or two to three minutes you spend absently looking around as the tank fills up?

For me, it’s the latter. I survive, somehow.

But BP thinks differently, and has started testing an interactive gas pump called Miles, which talks to you at your pump and encourages you to listen to tunes, play trivia and maybe even take a video selfie and send it to your confused friends.

The things are being tested at four BPs gas stations in the U.S. – 2 in Brooklyn and 2 in Chicago.

Reports Adweek:

BP partnered with digital music player Pandora and The Onion—which developed Miles’ playful voice/audio persona as part of a larger sponsorship—to provide content to customers. The smart pump will appear at two Brooklyn, N.Y., locations and one (Edit: it’s two, actually) in Chicago through Feb. 14. BP, which has shown a willingness to play with emerging tech for a number of years, will determine whether to expand the pilot program based on consumer response after that juncture. 

Me: The Onion partnership immediately made me wonder if this is just a joke, but I don’t think so.

Using a touch screen, Donna Sanker, chief marketing officer of BP Fuels North America, explained, “you can select what genre of music you want to listen to.” And customers can have have Miles send a Pandora link to their phone to continue listening to the artist after they drive away.

Customers can use the same touch screen to record video or take pictures of themselves. Depending on the kind of music selected, they can utilize a Snapchat-like filter to use on the pic or clip and then send media to their phones. From there, they are encouraged to share the content on social platforms. 

And if none of those pastimes interest you, Sanker said, “you can do a trivia quiz while pumping your gas.”

To be clear, Miles’ voice capabilties are one-way instructive, designed to encourage customers to partake in the activities via the touch screen. One cannot, in other words, converse with the gas pump thanks to artificial intelligence.  

Me: Not often I see a writer using the word “partake” … I think you need to hold a pinkie finger out when you read that.

These are the addresses if you want to see them, and see if anyone is using them:


New York City Metro Area

Here’s my take:

1 – Why?

2 – Where I live you need one hand to squeeze the gas pump trigger, as the little thingie that lets you set the pump pumping, and wander off, is disabled … so you’d be multi-tasking.

3 – Why would a company run an interactive trial in the dead of winter, in Chicago!!!, when all people want to do is get back in their warm vehicles?

4 – Just why???

The ad screens thing on gas pumps has been around for some 15 years now, and one or two companies like GSTV have managed to carve out a place-based ad business around it. But that’s targeted, push advertising based on demographics and trying, at least in part, to get people inside to buy high margin snacks and other goods.

I don’t get this thing, at all. But … there are many popular culture things that seem to excite people, that pretty much escape me and a lot of other people. This is also targeted at Millennials – though I’m pretty comfy my 20-something kids would look at this and roll their eyes.

Maybe this will be a huge success. But I know I’d actually avoid a station that had gas pumps yakking at me.

I’m also still not entirely convinced this isn’t an elaborate Onion gag, but there is a lot of media pick-up of it, and I don’t see BP – still getting over the Deepwater Horizon environmental and PR nightmare – being playful.


  1. Brad says:

    I really wonder what the actual goal of this is and how it will affect dwell times at these pumps / stations. Totally seems like a scam though. 🙂

  2. George says:

    These have been around for quite a while in some gas stations around Australia.

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