February 4, 2008

New Dutch Robot Will Fill Gas Tanks in Cars

Dutch inventors revealed their latest development today -- a new robot that refuels cars.  This first of its kind robot, which costs $111,000, works by registering cars on arrival at a filling station then matching it to a database of fuel cap designs and fuel types.   It works for any car whose tank can be opened without a key, and whose contours and dimensions have been recorded to avoid scratching.

A robotic arm fitted with multiple sensors extends from a regular gas pump, carefully opens the car's flap, unscrews the cap, picks up the fuel nozzle and directs it towards the tank opening, much as a human arm would, and just as efficiently.

"I was on a farm and I saw a robotic arm milking a cow. If a robot can do that then why can't it fill a car tank, I thought," said Nico van Staveren, the robot's developer and a petrol station operator, in a Reuters report. "Drivers needn't get dirty hands or smell of petrol again."

At a nearby gas station, Jelger De Kroon was filling his black Alfa Romeo. When asked whether he would trust his car to a robotic garage attendant he replied, "Why not? I guess I could keep my hands free and clean, but I'd hope they have good insurance."

Van Staveren hopes to introduce the new robot, called "Tankpitstop", at several Dutch stations this year.