AI is cracking down on smoking At the pumps

We have been told that we should not smoke while pumping gas. Most stations even have warnings about smoking but yet there is always that one person that just can’t wait for a smoke and decides to light up. To help combat that Microsoft and Shell have teamed up to incorporate AI into gas station security that will help to identify people doing it and allow a station manager or employee to take action and get them to put it out.

No cigarettes at the pumps

Starting with gas stations in Thailand and Singapore, AI is being incorporated into the video camera systems and linking it to Azure, Microsoft’s cloud intelligence program to catch smokers in the act. AI will take screenshots if something that looks like a cigarette is present and alert the station manager, who will then get the person to put it out. If the program is successful Shell plans to incorporate this technology into offshore drilling sites and refineries as well.

The reason for preventing people from smoking around the pumps should be obvious. With flammable fumes or spilled fuel the risk for a fire is greatly increased when someone lights up. Considering that most people simply toss away cigarette butts the risk is just too much with one of the most flammable substances in modern society and that is to say nothing about a lit butt igniting trash in the garbage can. Station managers are busy dealing with normal operations and with other customers and may not be able to see everything going on and this will certainly help. Given that pumping gas takes at most about 5-10 minutes it is very easy for a person to get away with this.

Dangers of cigarette smoking at the pumps

The dangers of this have been ingrained into us. How many heroes or villains on the Silver Screen have used a cigarette to light a flammable liquid on fire? The problem is that at least that part was made up by Hollywood so igniting gas with a cigarette is not really possible. That myth has been debunked numerous times on YouTube and more prominently by the Mythbusters on their TV show. In fact gas can even put out a lit cigarette. Gas ignites at between 500° and 540° F and cigarettes can only get to 450° to 500° F and those temperatures are only reached when it is being smoked. But there is enough overlap that it was conceivably plausible to do, hence why it is against the law to smoke at the pumps (here in the US at least) even if the danger is very low. Just like with electronics on an airplane, the small amount of risk involved outweighs the potential devastating result should all factors come together to produce a disaster.

That is not saying that there is no danger. There are since there are flammable fumes that can be ignited and these have been ignited by static electricity from metal gas cans so it doesn’t even take a cigarette.

AI has the potential to do some wonderful things for humanity and that may include saving us from ourselves. While some might give a victim a Darwin Award relating to any damage that comes from this the danger to other innocent people as well as the service station is simply too great. Smoking a cigarette can wait and it is probably just a matter of time until AI is ratting out smokers and issuing citations. Almost like a speed camera.

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