Dutch Gas Station Has Robot Pumping Gasoline (Video)

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Seems like there's a robot for every job.

Seems like there's a robot for every job.

An inventor in the Netherlands has merged the spirits of robotics with the only joy of New Jersey. No, I’m not talking about a cyborg Tony Soprano, though that would be cool. Nico Van Staveren developed the world’s first robotic arm that can pump gasoline while you stay in the comfort of your car. The TankPitStop debuted in Emmeloord, Netherlands last year and has been providing petrol to the Dutch people ever since. Check out the video below. While a robotic gas pump is nice, it points to a bigger issue: we’ve already reached a time when robots can take on almost any task.

2008 is actually a pretty late date to get robotic gasoline pumps. The necessary technology had been ready for seven to ten years. Staveren himself got the idea for TankPitStop while watching a friend’s automatic cow milking machine. We’ve mentioned how Willow Garage, MIT, and other robotics hubs are expanding horizons and how that could one day increase the availability of robots. But, truth be told, that day may already have arrived.

Staveren worked with Rotec Engineering, also in the Netherlands, to develop the pumping system. It builds off of three previous devices: a sucker to open the cover, a rotating grip to remove the cap, and the hand that selects and pumps the gas.

Though it costs more than $110,000, TankPitStop is designed to help make you some of that money back quickly. Staveren, who owns the Shell station where the robot debuted, claims that the efficiency of the arm will increase sales by 20% per hour per pump. There’s never any spillage, nor is the wrong gas used, so motorists are saving money as well. Motion sensors automatically shut off the pump if the car moves or if someone starts to interfere with the machine.

To insure that the correct gasoline is used for each car, consumers first register and place a small RFID sticker on their windshield. Payment through a credit card is arranged at the same time, so you never have to leave your car. While the service is not available to everyone, (classic cars present a problem) Staveren says 80% of current models can use the pump. That percentage increases as models are updated through automatic updates via the Internet.

All these technologies: robotic arms, Internet updates, RFIDs, motion sensors, are all old news. They could have been combined at any time in the past five to ten years to make a robotic gas station. It makes me wonder what other menial tasks could easily be roboticized. Certainly cost is a factor for some applications, but the price tag of industrial robots has been on the decline for a while. And as TankPitStop demonstrates, recouping that money isn’t that hard. I’m racking my brains right now, there’s got to be something I could easily do with a robot. Any ideas?

[photo credit: TankPitStop.nl]

Discussion — 27 Responses

  • Raelifin September 16, 2009 on 8:44 pm

    Like the miso soup bot, robots could easily be introduced to kitchens with limited menus (McDonalds, etc.)

    In fancier restaurants dishwashers already clean up, but they still need a person to load/unload them.

    Online ordering could work without delivery, with food, for example. Fill out a shopping list online, have the robots collect the food, then serve you a single bill. For those who don’t want to order ahead, grocery stores could have a nice lobby where people wait while the robots to shop for them.

    Even though Roomba is already on the scene, there’s a lot of potential for janatorial bots. Imagine a bot that could mop, vacuum, climb stairs, empty trashcans and charge itself.

    All these are possible with modern technology. They patiently await investment capital, consumer demand, and clever roboticists.

  • Raelifin September 16, 2009 on 4:44 pm

    Like the miso soup bot, robots could easily be introduced to kitchens with limited menus (McDonalds, etc.)

    In fancier restaurants dishwashers already clean up, but they still need a person to load/unload them.

    Online ordering could work without delivery, with food, for example. Fill out a shopping list online, have the robots collect the food, then serve you a single bill. For those who don’t want to order ahead, grocery stores could have a nice lobby where people wait while the robots to shop for them.

    Even though Roomba is already on the scene, there’s a lot of potential for janatorial bots. Imagine a bot that could mop, vacuum, climb stairs, empty trashcans and charge itself.

    All these are possible with modern technology. They patiently await investment capital, consumer demand, and clever roboticists.

  • Clickbank Product Reviews September 17, 2009 on 8:10 am

    That’s badass, but I’d imagine the cost per gallon of gas would easily go up by 15 to 20 cents to make up for the cost.

  • Clickbank Product Reviews September 17, 2009 on 4:10 am

    That’s badass, but I’d imagine the cost per gallon of gas would easily go up by 15 to 20 cents to make up for the cost.

  • asdf September 17, 2009 on 11:22 am

    Steal the car with the RFID and have it refueled and billed for free. That’s really progress.

  • asdf September 17, 2009 on 7:22 am

    Steal the car with the RFID and have it refueled and billed for free. That’s really progress.

  • markosf September 17, 2009 on 11:48 am

    I recently viewed a show called Engineered that focuses mainly on factories and how products are made.
    I saw complex machines do incredible stuff but every once in a while in the production line there was a human. What the human did could (in most cases) be easily be performed by a robot. So the problem is not technology, but politics. Society (and economy) can not accept a factory with no human workforce.

  • markosf September 17, 2009 on 7:48 am

    I recently viewed a show called Engineered that focuses mainly on factories and how products are made.
    I saw complex machines do incredible stuff but every once in a while in the production line there was a human. What the human did could (in most cases) be easily be performed by a robot. So the problem is not technology, but politics. Society (and economy) can not accept a factory with no human workforce.

  • trav September 17, 2009 on 12:01 pm

    As a petrol station attendant that actually stands out there and pumps petrol for people (yes, they actually still have them at places, it surprises me too), this concerns me a little. I can’t see this being implemented on a large scale any time soon though.

  • trav September 17, 2009 on 8:01 am

    As a petrol station attendant that actually stands out there and pumps petrol for people (yes, they actually still have them at places, it surprises me too), this concerns me a little. I can’t see this being implemented on a large scale any time soon though.

  • Arun September 17, 2009 on 12:07 pm

    A gas pumping robot is the solution to all of our problems!

  • Arun September 17, 2009 on 8:07 am

    A gas pumping robot is the solution to all of our problems!

  • Jason Steen September 17, 2009 on 12:40 pm

    Wow, that seems reasonable to me dude!

    Steen
    http://www.web-privacy.de.tc

  • Jason Steen September 17, 2009 on 8:40 am

    Wow, that seems reasonable to me dude!

    Steen
    http://www.web-privacy.de.tc

  • ConcretelyAmbiguous September 17, 2009 on 12:43 pm

    Can it pay for me also? It can’t and YOU CAN’T DO THIS.

    http://concretelyambiguous.com/i-bet-you-cant/bet-you-cant-do-this-4/

  • ConcretelyAmbiguous September 17, 2009 on 8:43 am

    Can it pay for me also? It can’t and YOU CAN’T DO THIS.

    http://concretelyambiguous.com/i-bet-you-cant/bet-you-cant-do-this-4/

  • Prudhvi September 17, 2009 on 1:28 pm

    In Countries near equator the time when the Gas tank cap is opened/Closed and gas actually being pumped is enough to evaporate half tank of gas in the day time.

  • Captain Obvious September 17, 2009 on 1:28 pm

    What about 40% of cars who’s gas cap does not come all of the way off of the tank?

  • Prudhvi September 17, 2009 on 9:28 am

    In Countries near equator the time when the Gas tank cap is opened/Closed and gas actually being pumped is enough to evaporate half tank of gas in the day time.

  • Captain Obvious September 17, 2009 on 9:28 am

    What about 40% of cars who’s gas cap does not come all of the way off of the tank?

  • RoB September 17, 2009 on 1:39 pm

    My fuel cap requires my key to open…

  • RoB September 17, 2009 on 9:39 am

    My fuel cap requires my key to open…

  • saneinventor September 17, 2009 on 3:01 pm

    What a fucking waste of energy. People are too fucking fat as it is, this is just helping add the kilos to lazy fat american and dutch idiots.

  • saneinventor September 17, 2009 on 11:01 am

    What a fucking waste of energy. People are too fucking fat as it is, this is just helping add the kilos to lazy fat american and dutch idiots.

  • gideon September 17, 2009 on 8:20 pm

    When I moved to Oregon I learned that they have a law there to preserve jobs that requires all gas stations to have attendants and you actually aren’t allowed to pump your own gas – not because its more efficient (really its not – you end up waiting for the attendant while you stare at the unused pump next to you), but because so few low wage jobs are available it was a way to ensure employment. It’s bizarre to me to see that even that kind of job has been roboticized by someone since the job really shouldn’t even exist in the first place (I don’t mind pumping my own gas – gives me a chance to stretch my legs). I never wished for all the people who pumped my gas while I was living there to lose their employment but the whole situation provided nothing for me and actually slowed me down.

  • gideon September 17, 2009 on 4:20 pm

    When I moved to Oregon I learned that they have a law there to preserve jobs that requires all gas stations to have attendants and you actually aren’t allowed to pump your own gas – not because its more efficient (really its not – you end up waiting for the attendant while you stare at the unused pump next to you), but because so few low wage jobs are available it was a way to ensure employment. It’s bizarre to me to see that even that kind of job has been roboticized by someone since the job really shouldn’t even exist in the first place (I don’t mind pumping my own gas – gives me a chance to stretch my legs). I never wished for all the people who pumped my gas while I was living there to lose their employment but the whole situation provided nothing for me and actually slowed me down.

  • timhardfest February 25, 2010 on 10:05 pm

    I just purchased a fuel saving device which is a throttle body spacer. I have seen increased fuel efficiency and there are no outlandish claims from the maker.