Dutch unveil robot to fill car gas tank

TankPitstop robot carefully opens car's flap, unscrews gas tank cap, picks up fuel nozzle, and directs it toward tank opening.

Motorists nostalgic for the time they could sit in their car while attendants braved windswept gas stations to fill their tanks may yet see the full-service days return--compliments of a Dutch robot.

Dutch inventors unveiled on Monday a $111,100 car-fueling robot they say is the first of its kind, working by registering the car on arrival at the filling station and matching it to a database of fuel cap designs and fuel types.

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

Credit: Intion Development
Here is the TankPitstop in action. To
see it in action, watch this on Intion Development's Dutch-
only Web site.

"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 developer and gas station operator Nico van Staveren. "Drivers needn't get dirty hands or smell of petrol again."

He hopes to introduce the "TankPitstop" robot (see video) in a handful of Dutch stations by the end of the year. It works for any car whose tank can be opened without a key and whose contours and dimensions have been recorded to avoid scratching.

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

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