EMMELOORD, Netherlands Motorists nostalgic for the time they could sit tight while attendants braved windswept garage forecourts to fill their tanks may yet see those heady days return -- compliments of a Dutch robot.
Dutch inventors unveiled on Monday a 75,000 euro ($111,100) car-fuelling 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 cap, picks up the fuel nozzle and directs it towards the tank opening, much as a human arm would, and 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 developer and petrol station operator Nico van Staveren. "Drivers needn't get dirty hands or smell of petrol again."
He hopes to introduce the "Tankpitstop" robot 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."
(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson, editing by Ralph Boulton)