File this one to the “we’ll believe it when we see it” folder. Toyota is apparently now the owner of a patent for an autonomous tanker vehicle that refuels or recharges your car “on the fly.” While that conjures images of a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker extending a fuel boom to an F-16, it’s unclear from the filing whether the cars would be in motion or parked.
This seems to be a high-level patent, one where a company is simply staking a claim to an idea rather than having a fleshed-out product. Discovered by The Drive, it shows a nondescript boxy trailer that contains the various types of fuel. It’s attached to an autonomous car that can be summoned by a customer, who provides the make and model of their car and selects different octane grades of petrol, diesel, hydrogen, or recharging for EVs.
The refueling rig would then follow a GPS signal to the customer’s location, not unlike a Lyft or Uber. It can also make several stops before returning to its home base for the trailer to be refilled.
While the patent filing admits that gasoline stations are common, hydrogen and charging stations aren’t, and perhaps these mobile refueling rigs are one way to compensate for the scarcity. Or, they can be used to rescue drivers who have run out of gas.
Could one vision of our future see armies of these self-driving tankers patrolling the highways, waiting for calls? The utopian scenario is brought back to reality when the patent also calls out provisions for advertising, turning them into roving billboards.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of Toyota’s patent is the drawing depicting how the trailer attaches to the drone car, which appears to be none other than a Honda Civic. Specifically, it looks like sixth-generation Civic sedan, sold in the U.S. from 1997-2000. With numerous Corollas and Camrys to reference, it’s a peculiar choice. Or, maybe it’s a nod to Honda being the first to Level 3 autonomy.