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Robotics Hardware

Dutch Unveil Robot Gas Station Attendant 287

Lucas123 writes "According to a Reuters' story, Dutch inventors today took the wraps off a $110,000 car-fueling robot they say is the first of its kind. (It was inspired by a cow milking robot.) After registering the car as it pulls up to the pump, the machine matches your fuel cap design with those in a database and your car's fuel type, and then a robotic arm fitted with multiple sensors extends from a regular gas pump, '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.' Wait till Hollywood gets hold of this scenario."
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Dutch Unveil Robot Gas Station Attendant

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @05:55PM (#22313170)
    Once again, I get the strangest sense that Paul Verhoeven somehow foresaw this. Verhoeven worked his way through college in the Netherlands working as a gas-station attendant and would later go on to direct the movie "Robocop." Coincidence? Perhaps not...

    First of all, there are other bizarre coincidences, such as the appearance of a DVD in the movie "Robocop" (ten years before DVD would actually debut), the "President Schwarzenegger" reference in "Total Recall" (long before his political career), the 9-11 satire in "Starship Troopers" (four years before 9-11), etc.

    Did he use his Ph.D. in mathematics to construct a time machine (perhaps to come back and have sex with a young Elizabeth Berkley)? Is he the prophet of our age? And what more does this portend? Are invisible men next?

  • Re:well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mrxak ( 727974 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @06:18PM (#22313546)
    From the pictures and video, looks like you have to be parked just right, and do we know how well it can figure out which car is which?
  • Re:well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Facetious ( 710885 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @06:28PM (#22313746) Journal
    I'm not sure about countries in Europe, but all U.S. cars have a bar code visible through the windshield (windscreen) that represents the VIN (vehicle identification number) that is easily machine readable. Of course some people have taken to covering it up as it has been used as an "attack vector" for identity theft.
  • Re:well... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by slap20 ( 168152 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @06:45PM (#22314050)
    $110,000 isnt' that much cost/money for a gas station to shell (no pun intended) out. My local gas station got busted for rigging the pumps with computer chips that would secretly pump 87-octane gas when you selected 91-octane and charge you 91 octane prices. I know the owner, and they got fined a couple hundred thousand dollars, but the owner just laughed when he told me that was ALL they charged him, he said he had made so much money rigging the pumps before he got busted that it was a drop in the bucket. I would imagine it would have cameras somewhere so if you drive off it snaps your photo, like the traffic cameras that send a picture of you running the red light in the mail. You know, the photo where your looking up at the light as you go through thinking you "totally make it!"
  • Re:Oregon (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) * on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @06:48PM (#22314088) Journal
    ...sure was nice not having to get out of the car to fill up...

    Sure is safer, too. That stuf is toxic as well as having a lot of energy density for a liquid. Just a little bit of training -- a tiny bit, really -- is all you need to keep people from exposure to hot plasma or a lot of strange molecules that the monkey in you never learned to deal with. You or I may know intuitively what to do, but the non-Slashdot crowd is pretty immense and prone to errors in mundane day-to-day engineering processes such as the refueling process for a complex machine. I salute, therefore, this idea.

    However, if you rock up with a little Honda step-through, you want to be really careful.

  • Re:well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ( 1108067 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @06:56PM (#22314230) Homepage Journal

    "I'm not sure about countries in Europe, but all U.S. cars have a bar code visible through the windshield (windscreen) that represents the VIN (vehicle identification number) that is easily machine readable"

    Ever try to read the vin? Some are easy - a lot aren't.

    Then there's accumulated snow, rain, frost, dirt, etc.

    Also reflections, angle of view ...

    Also there's the issue of damage when a motorist drives off too soon. Nowadays, its' about a grand in damages. This thing would be a LOT more expensive.

  • by robertjw ( 728654 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @06:58PM (#22314248) Homepage
    This might be an OK idea for cars, but what happens when I need to fill my lawn mower, a gas can, an ATV on a trailer, motorcycle, etc...

    Seems like there are a large number of situations when this wouldn't work. Will the robot replace all pumps? Will there be special pumps for when the robot doesn't work? Will gas for my lawn mower get more expensive since I have to drive across town to find a station that can actually put gas in a can?
  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @07:25PM (#22314574) Homepage
    the 9-11 satire in "Starship Troopers" (four years before 9-11),

    I assume you're referring to the destruction of Buenos Aires by the "bugs". That was just satire of the politically-fueled patriotic hysteria following any such event, of which 9/11 was just one example of. If it reminded you of 9/11 in hindsight, that's because history doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme.

    Also, that event was in the original book by Heinlein, published in 1959. I doubt he predicted 9/11 over 40 years in advance, unless you mean in the most non-specific "a thing like this could probably happen sometime" kind of way.
  • Re:well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @07:54PM (#22314904)
    but all U.S. cars have a bar code visible through the windshield (windscreen) that represents the VIN (vehicle identification number) that is easily machine readable.

    What a wonderful tracking tool. Whether you pay cash or not, we know that VIN XXYY123 left gas station Z at 2:42 PM.
  • by hakr89 ( 719001 ) <8329650d-c1bd-41 ... 28@[ ] ['fak> on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @07:57PM (#22314966)
    I'm not talking about opening the door, I'm talking about actually getting the fuel out. I tried to drain the tank on my 94 Cavalier, and it wasn't possible to get the hose far enough into the gas tank to siphon. I didn't look too far into it, but I assumed it was some sort of mesh.
  • by Chrisje ( 471362 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2008 @07:07AM (#22319078)
    My hometown, Emmeloord, the Netherlands, is one of the sleepiest places on the earth. Initially it was a farming community. It was ocean until 1920 when the dyke was built to close the part of the ocean to form a brackish lake, and then in 1941 the area was mad into land just prior to the Germans invading the country. From the fifties, there was a boom of Farmers from Zeeland fleeing the south after the flooding of '53 which killed 5000+ people. My mother was one of those.

    This town is populated with earthy farm folk. There is nothing to do. On any given Sunday you can fire guns downtown without anyone even hearing them. The streets are empty on Sundays. When I went to high school, 16 year old boys took their John Deeres and Massey Fergusons to school. The first thing I ever learnt how to drive was a small Massey Fergusson tractor from the late forties. The second thing I learnt how to drive was a fork lift.

    Nico van Staveren was a long-time friend of my fathers. My father is now dead and gone, but to see Nico come up with this stuff is just more than bizarre. Figure my bewilderment of finding a story on /. about my home town, one of the least likely to be in the news places on the planet.

    The only thing I wonder about is what this will mean to anyone with a Toyota or Mazda that happens to pull into the robotic pump. Like my townsman so aptly commented "Why not, but I hope they're insured well". :-D :-D

    This really made my day. It brought tears to my eyes as I'm reading this in my living room in Haifa, Israel.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann