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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

As more electric and autonomous vehicles take to the streets, consumers may soon be able to skip the mundane task of stopping for gas. The disruption of other types of retail, like big department stores, suggests this transition could push the multi-billion-dollar market of gas stations and convenience stores toward collapse.

The big picture: Roughly 150,000 stores sell 80% of the fuel consumed in the United States, as well as $200 billion worth of food and merchandise, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores. Yet most stores have invested little in alternative methods to deliver goods or fuel to their customers, especially as cars shift from gas to electricity or even hydrogen fuel cells.

Where it stands: The grocery business is already preparing for automated and autonomous vehicles, with Kroger, Walmart, Whole Foods and others experimenting with new delivery options. But only the biggest gas stations and convenience stores are getting on board.

  • In partnership with 7-Eleven, Toyota is adapting its self-driving platform as a foundation for mobile stores that can deliver goods autonomously.
  • Shell has piloted a fuel-delivery service that refills cars while passengers are at home, at the office or around town. If F-16s can be refueled mid-air, we ought to be able to adapt this technology to vehicles on the road.

The bottom line: Technological shifts, especially the rise of e-commerce, have driven many large brick-and-mortar retailers out of business. Unless they're able to adapt, gas stations and convenience stores — mostly run by small business owners — could be left in the same position by autonomous and electric vehicles.

Karthik Kannan is the Thomas Howatt Chaired Professor in Management at Purdue University and director of the Business Information and Analytics Center.

Go deeper

Updated 24 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.

Australian Open organizers reverse "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirt ban

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai during the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo: Bai Xue/Xinhua via Getty Images

Australian Open organizers on Tuesday reversed a ban on t-shirts supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai following widespread criticism.

Why it matters: Tennis Australia's announcement came less than 24 hours after the governing body defended the decision to ask fans last Friday to remove "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirts, citing ticket policy prohibiting political clothing, per the BBC.

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