A number of UK supermarkets are in talks with an AI company to use software algorithms to charge more for petrol during busy periods.
Denmark-based software company a2i Systems already supply technology to petrol stations in Europe and the US to run ‘demand-pay’ systems, and have now launched in the UK. Their software algorithms predict busy periods on forecourts (the morning rush hour, the afternoon school run, Bank Holidays, etc) and raise prices in line with demand at these times. Prices are then lowered during quieter periods.
a2i say:”The methods allow these systems to rapidly and intelligently react to changing customer behaviour, changing markets, and unexpected events”.
Several petrol stations already raise prices at weekends, but not as dramatically as this could allow retailers to – with the Daily Telegraph claiming it could mean an increase and decrease up of to 2p per litre several times a day. This time of pricing is similar to that used by holiday and airline companies.
Motorists groups have been quick to criticise the product. “This represents a huge change which would be most unfair on commuters and families visiting relatives during the holidays,” says Luke Bosdet, a fuel analyst at the AA.
According to the RAC, the average price for diesel this week is 117.39p per litre – and falling – while unleaded is steady at 116.21p. The RAC recommends looking beyond the supermarkets for deals, pointing out that some independent retailers are very cost-competitive; under these new plans, that may be even more true.
Of course, one easy way to cut back on your fuel bills is to share your journeys – so if you’re likely to be caught up in new demand pricing, list your spare seats on Liftshare now!
Author Lex Barber
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