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Dutch Unveil Robot Gas Station Attendant

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.

Robotics 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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well... (2, Funny)

slap20 (168152) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313136)

I for one welcome our Dutch gas pumping robotic overlords!!

Re:well... (5, Funny)

garlicbready (846542) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313348)

considering it costs $110,000, and if the gas station is fully automated will it be able to beat the crap out of someone who refuses to pay?
(think Johny Cab / Total Recall)

"warning insufficient funds
engage orifice insertion override"

Re:well... (2, Interesting)

mrxak (727974) | more than 6 years ago | (#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... (3, Interesting)

Facetious (710885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313746)

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... (-1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313854)

We also have something alike. It's called license plate.

Paul Verhoeven, prophet of our times (2, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Paul Verhoeven, prophet of our times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313664)

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),

You know, a long time ago, there were laser discs [wikipedia.org] that were very similar to DVDs.

Re:Paul Verhoeven, prophet of our times (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313906)

Schwarzenegger was in Total Recall yet I don't remember that specific reference. I do know that "President Schwarzenegger" was referenced in Demolition Man with Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes though.

Unforuntately... (0)

billius (1188143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313174)

the gas station blew up after the robot sparked a fat, Amsterdam blunt while pumping fuel. *ducks*

Re:Unforuntately... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313374)

the gas station blew up after the robot sparked a fat, Amsterdam blunt while pumping fuel. *ducks*

You don't have to duck when the joke is that incredibly stupid. People will just ignore it.

Already Happened (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313200)

Wait till Hollywood gets hold of this scenario.


The porn industry (also located in Southern California) already has.

Also, it seems that you can register .com domains that start with the f-word and end with "ingmachines".

-Peter

Re:Already Happened (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313258)

Do you know how to tell when a porn star is filling his gas tank?

Just before the fuel comes out, he yanks the nozzle out and sprays it all over the windshield.

Re:Already Happened (2, Insightful)

Supergibbs (786716) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313526)

Mod parent up *funny* :-)

Re:Already Happened (3, Funny)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313496)

Also, it seems that you can register .com domains that start with the f-word and end with "ingmachines".
What could possibly be wrong with "www.firetruckingmachines.com"?

I think it's not the first. (5, Informative)

BytePusher (209961) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313220)

In Indiana, Shell tried a similar robot in my home town. It cost about $100 for a special gas cap and had a huge bay you would drive into. I guess it wasn't too popular, but definitely existed before this.

Re:I think it's not the first. (1)

camiam (20430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313376)

Not the first: 1998 article from Popular Mechanics on what you probably saw in Indiana. The article is about the Shell SmartPump station in Elk Grove, CA. Don't think it lasted very long.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/new_cars/1266746.html [popularmechanics.com]

Re:I think it's not the first. (1)

lewscroo (695355) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313448)

I'm pretty sure this is an old idea. I believe they even had this type of station shown in that great show 'Beyond 2000'. But they did clarify 'FIRST OF ITS KIND', so of course its the first of its kind based on all the criteria which only fit this particular deployment.

Re:I think it's not the first. (1)

PCMeister (837482) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313858)

While that may be the case, the same can be said for so-called "green" cars. This can be found in the following article: The History of Electric Vehicles [about.com]

The difference between what Shell tried in the past and this time around is something called INNOVATION; which is something that has been severely hindered by ass-backwards patent system in the US. Not to mention the litigation-happy society some of us live in.

From TFA:

"It works for any car whose tank can be opened without a key, and whose contours and dimensions have been recorded to avoid scratching."

Why wait? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313222)

We can write the script here: every robot movie anywhere always turns into RUR:

Naive inventor tries to make robots "better".
Robots turn on humanity.
Humans/robots win (this is the only variation in the plot permitted, ever.)

Yawn.

Why? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313226)

Any junior-year engineer at college could do this? How is this useful, news, or important?

not trying to be a Luddite here, but really, whats next, a robot that wipes your backside?

Re:Why? (1)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313402)

whats next, a robot that wipes your backside?
They have those?

With apologies to Peter Griffin.

Re:Why? (1)

provigilman (1044114) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313728)

You know, if "Any junior-year engineer at college" cand do this, why haven't they yet? The light bulb and the telephone seem relatively simplistic in hindsight too, doesn't mean they weren't innovations.

Oregon (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313228)

My first thought is that this development is just the latest incremental improvement in robotics, and will help pave the way for more useful robotic applications.

Then I remembered a trip through the state of Oregon. As of ten years ago or so travelers were not permitted to pump their own gas. I don't know if this is still the case, or why it was the case in the first place, but these robots might actually have an application if there are many places with laws on the books requiring certified entities to dispense gas to motorists.

Re:Oregon (1)

Sta7ic (819090) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313288)

Oregon still requires that fuel attendants pump gas. My sister lives across the river in Portland, OR, and not pumping my own gas throws me.

Re:Oregon (1)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313360)

Oregon and New Jersey don't allow you pump your own. The supposed rationale is that, as you speculated, only qualified people are allowed to pump gas. The true reason, however, is featherbedding (i.e. creating jobs). Replacing those guys with a robot won't really solve that problem...

It's a jobs program (1)

donutello (88309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313372)

It has nothing to do with safety. It has to do with the deluded belief that creating busy work for people to do is a good thing for everyone concerned.

Re:Oregon (2, Informative)

veganboyjosh (896761) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313434)

I lived in Portland for about 9 months a few years ago. Had a job delivering food, actually.

The gas wasn't noticeably more expensive, and it sure was nice not having to get out of the car to fill up.

I believe New Jersey also has/had a similar policy of not allowing motorists to pump their own gas. It's my understanding that by requiring gas stations to provide at least one gas pump attendant, it keeps at least one person per station employed above and beyond what they would in any other state. Considering how many gas stations there are, that's a lot of unemployment averted. I never could tell where the extra cost for paying pump attendant wages came from...

Re:Oregon (1)

Weh (219305) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313542)

the purpose of the robot attendant is to help disabled people fill up their car, it isn't intended for "regular" customers. Don't ask me what people that are so disable that they cannot fill up their cars are doing actually _driving_ those cars. (although I remember there was some guy with no arms caught driving in new zealand a while back, seems he had been driving for years and got caught for some minor offense)

Re:Oregon (1, Troll)

MachineShedFred (621896) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313818)

Sitting in SE Portland right now, I can tell you that the State believes that I'm not qualified to safely transfer fuel into my own vehicle. However, if I drive north of the Columbia, East of the Snake, or south of the Siskyiou Mountains, I somehow develop this ability... only to lose it again once traversing back.

Hmm (3, Funny)

Sta7ic (819090) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313232)

[whirrrr-click] Target identified. Model recognized as Homer J. Simpson. Preparing doughnut tube.
[whirrrr-click] Target identified. Model recognized as College Student. Preparing beer tube.
[whirrrr-click] Target identified. Model recognized as Slashdot Visitor. Preparing "In Mother Russia" meme-milk and "Cowboy Neal" flakes.

Re:Hmm (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313368)

"I can still hear it screaming in that fire we had. After that I decided to just go back to the old-fashioned pumps."

My fuel "flap" has a lock (3, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313238)

and I can't understand how other people handle not locking their fuel flap. You lock your car, which is covered by insurance, but you leave the fuel for the taking? Thankfully, I've yet to see a film where someone turns a car into a Molotov cocktail by inserting a rag into the fuel cap and lighting it up.. thankfully, because kids have a thing for emulating what they see in films.

My fuel flag does have the means to be opened from inside the car.. so I guess I could just do that when approaching Sir-Pumps-A-lot.

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (1)

hakr89 (719001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313304)

Most gas tanks are designed to be siphon resistant, making it difficult for someone to remove the fuel that way. As to turning a car into a molotov cocktail, I'm sure its been done.

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (1)

The-Pheon (65392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313326)

My fuel cap actually has a locking mechanism built into it. Stick in the key, and spin. I would have to give the robot my keys before we could start this experiment.

 

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313440)

same here! It might work pretty for new & expensive cars, though, it can go together with the central locking mechanism.

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313482)

Umm, no?

Fitting the thing with a master key for each manufacturer would not be difficult. Such things are well known. Not that anyone will think of the possible abuse that would ensue or anything. /sarcasm on last sentence, not on first

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313342)

quote "Thankfully, I've yet to see a film where someone turns a car into a Molotov cocktail by inserting a rag into the fuel cap and lighting it up.. thankfully, because kids have a thing for emulating what they see in films."

Go see "No country for old men."

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313436)

Or the re-made Gone in 60 Seconds

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313386)

I just live in a decent neighborhood.
The day I feel I need to lock up is the day I start looking for a new house.

Not that a lock would actually stop someone.

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (2, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313462)

That's a retarded view of security, for which you should be ashamed.

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313560)

I guess you've never seen a locksmith open a house in about 3 seconds. Locks are false security.

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313864)

I think it depends. I've never had a house broken into, but I have had two bikes stolen, where neither was locked. Sure, the lock I put on my bike could be broken by anyone with a strong jack or a big pair of bolt cutters, but the thing is, basically no one is just walking around with either of those things, whereas pretty much everyone is walking around with their bare limbs, which is all they need to take away an unlocked bike (or one locked with a truly pathetic lock).

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313474)

You'd really only get scorch marks on your car. Since the fuel is only flammable in vapor-form with oxygen, you'd just get a car-sized kerosene lamp (with the burning rag acting as a wick).
A friend once had an engine-fire, and when the fire department arrived, they just calmly walked over to the car, and unscrewed the fuel cap. They explained that the fuel would evaporate safely, and his car would remain intact.

Re:My fuel "flap" has a lock (0, Redundant)

BaronHethorSamedi (970820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313600)

Thankfully, I've yet to see a film where someone turns a car into a Molotov cocktail by inserting a rag into the fuel cap and lighting it up.


Check out No Country for Old Men. Leave the kids at home, though.

Lockable fuel doors don't stop fuel theft. (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313738)

I drive a Diesel powered vehicle. Most "fuel thieves" are looking for gasoline, and those that want diesel fuel are more likely going to look for much larger quantities of it (large trucks). (Yes, go ahead and draw your paralleling analogy of "Security through Obscurity")

That aside, the last local outbreak of vehicle fuel thefts were committed by drilling a hole into the bottom of fuel tank and capturing the gas in several low-profile containers rotated out for collection. Unless you have something armoring that blow-molded plastic tank, it's easier (and faster) than siphoning it out through the filler neck.

The lock does, however help deter vandalism whether the introduction of a foreign substance (sugar, soda-pop, water) or ala four-wheeled Molotov cocktail.

Pfft. The Dutch. (0)

Sitnalta (1051230) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313262)

This is the very definition of a solution in search of a problem.

Next thing you know the Dutch will invent an automated pot-smoking robot. Or a robot that runs on German xenophobia.

Re:Pfft. The Dutch. (2, Informative)

Klaus_1250 (987230) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313670)

Doubt it. Some people don't like or don't know how (!) to fuel their car. In fact, I know several people who always visit the same gas station simply because it still has a gas attendant (a rarity here in the Netherlands, though 20 years ago it was quite common). Seeing that more and more gas stations here are becoming unmanned entirely (saves you up to 10 eurocent per liter), why not a Gas filling robot? You can stay in your car where it is warm, where you can listening to your favorite radio station, eat a sandwich or drink a refreshment, make a quick call, program the GPS, look through some papers, read your mail, etc, etc. It sound silly at first, but those 5 minutes can be pretty useful at times. Not to mention that it is better for your health as well.

NJ and Oregon (1)

dj245 (732906) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313266)

Residents of New Jersey and Oregon are thrilled by this latest development. Finally, a way to fuel up without rolling down the window.

Re:NJ and Oregon (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313852)

Or waiting for some minimum-wage paid douche to get off his ass and actually come over and do his job...

(Note, not all douches are paid minimum wage, and not all people earning minimum wage are douches, but the two go hand in hand when I'm sitting there unable to do what the law mandates they do for me.)

Whatever you do, don't bend over... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313284)

to check your tire pressure. Just saying.

Key? (1)

Tribbin (565963) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313300)

Will it open my door and take the key out of my pocket?

Re:Key? (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313886)

If a robot has a mechanical claw in your pocket, you had better *hope* it's the key it comes away with.

Novelty Act (3, Insightful)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313312)

Now this is were automation really is handy dandy stuff. But actual merits aside, if it were to ever be used in the US it would be a novelty. People would bitch and complain...

I grew up in Oregon. A state that requires an attendent to pump your gas. I worked at a texaco one summer. There were 3 distinct positions on the issue:

1. Out of staters: Oh my god wow, it's really illegal for me to pump my own gas? Why thank you keep the change.
2. The in towners: Hurry the fuck up kid and please get my side windows.
3. The drive up politicians: Don't you see how this is hurting the very business you work for by requring man power for a job the costumer could do themselves. (My reply: dude I'm just here for the beer money)

So yeah I see the same thing to varying degrees happening at the pump (if this were to ever become a substantial choice for gas station owners here in the states)... Which would just be a rehash of the old auto workers complaints I can remember from as far back as grade school. Our science text books had these odd placed "Look to the future" sections. One of which was about robotics, and how there was a concern it would replace jobs with out creating... yadda yadda yadda Seemed like a pro union slant to me even then. (tho for the record I am pro union)

All that aside. I think it would be cool to have a robot doing this. I've worked in gas stations outside of Oregon here and there. Where people could do their own fueling, the amount of gas people slopped all over themselves, their car or the ground was substantial... and they always wanted a refund!

Re:Novelty Act (1)

DJ Jones (997846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313668)

the amount of gas people slopped all over themselves, their car or the ground was substantial... and they always wanted a refund!

I'm always amazed that people are incapable of pumping their own gas. I mean, if you live in a state that forbids you to pump your own gas, I might understand. But in New York? There's no excuse. If you are incapable of using a gas pump, I don't think you should be allowed to drive a 2 ton automobile.

End of story...

Re:Novelty Act (1)

Idaho (12907) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313930)

I grew up in Oregon. A state that requires an attendent to pump your gas.
The article talks about the Netherlands though. I have *never* seen gas stations where an attendant actually pumps the gas in all of Europe. I'd go as far as to say that many Europeans, when asked, would find the very idea to be ludicrous (once you have explained it to them).

In fact, it goes even further - it's very common to have completely "unattended" gas stations, i.e. you authorize the payment by credit card/electronic bank transfer using a PIN, and then the amount you actually take to fill up the tank gets debited automatically. There is no shop etc. whatsoever, which allows a gas station to be run on very thin margins.

just testing it out with my spanking new Volvo (2, Funny)

sam_paris (919837) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313330)

Hey guys,

i'm actually writing this from my iphone, while in my car, while one of these new robots fills up my volvo. I don't know why you guys are tagging this "whatcouldpossiblygowrong", it seems well engineered and apparently efficient. The only problem I can foresee would be some sort of short circuit which could produce a spark and ##KR2F@F@$F$ {NO CARRIER}

Robots will be an economic disaster. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313334)

What will gas station attendants do when this replaces them? Go work at a fast food place? great, but in 5 years when they 'iBurgerFlipper' replaces them then what?

The idea that the jobs market loss in one are creates more jobs another is not always true.

Espcially when you consider global scales of volume. If McDonalds can displace 2 owrkers with a 110,000 robot, you bet they would.

And who do you think will build the robots? that's right, other robots. While it will create new industries, it can not create enough to replace 1/10 of the workers that will be displaced.

Am I saying we shouldn't adobt robotic technology? no, I am not. In fact I welcome robotic technology. What I am saying is we, as a global society, should prepare for what is going to happen.

If robots can replace all the non creative jobs, perhaps it will be time for a form of socialism. Or maybe not allow corporations to own robots, and only let people own 1 robot. One which can either work in place of you and you get a paycheck from that.

More free time for people is always good. I would much rather work on my poor painting skills then listen to the crunching of my cube neighbor all FRICKIN DAY.

Re:Robots will be an economic disaster. (2, Insightful)

Osurak (1013927) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313398)

Marshall Brain already thought of that. Check out his short story, Manna [marshallbrain.com]

Re:Robots will be an economic disaster. (4, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313522)

What will gas station attendants do when this replaces them? Go work at a fast food place? great, but in 5 years when they 'iBurgerFlipper' replaces them then what?

I dunno... I suppose they will do the same thing as the textile loomers did after the industrial revolution in the 1800s.

IMO if your job can be replaced by a machine, it probaly was boring.

Re:Robots will be an economic disaster. (1)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313824)

IMO if your job can be replaced by a machine, it probaly was boring.

Probably... but not as boring as being broke and unemployed

Re:Robots will be an economic disaster. (1)

cobaltnova (1188515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313904)

IMO if your job can be replaced by a machine, it probaly was boring.
It is widely believed that the human mind is turing equivalent [wikipedia.org] (and hence can be replaced by a machine)... did making that post bore you?

Re:Robots will be an economic disaster. (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313552)

If McDonalds can displace 2 owrkers with a 110,000 robot, you bet they would.

And in one scenario [marshallbrain.com] , they (or a close competitor) have.

Re:Robots will be an economic disaster. (1)

Telepathetic Man (237975) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313582)

In a similar light, the entire industrial revolution must have been a disaster for people too, right? How about the invention of farming?

Re:Robots will be an economic disaster. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313620)

If McDonalds can displace 2 owrkers with a 110,000 robot, you bet they would.

I'm assuming that's US$110,000, in which case I'd disagree. McDonald's employees aren't payed more than US$55,000, and even if they were, I'd rather have two versatile human employees than one static robot (unless it's a giant transforming Ronald McDonald, 'cause that'd be neat).

What gas station attendants? (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313624)

I haven't seen one since I was 6. As far as I know they only exist in New Jersey, where its illegal to pump your own gas. But good thoughts otherwise. Are attendants more common in Europe or other parts of the world beyond the Midwest of the United States?

Re:Robots will be an economic disaster. (3, Funny)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313724)

The gas station attendants will likely get work as "gas station robot maintenance dudes" that fix robots which, you know, go bad. And you know they will. Let's consider some likely scenarios:

1) Robot claws open rear passenger door thinking it's a gas cap cover and shoves nozzle down whoever's strapped in.

2) Robot decides you have a 2007 model instead of 2008 and destroys your gas cap because they way it opens has been changed

3) Robot beats you up and drives off in your car

4) Robot doesn't know the "3 clicks" rule and keeps screwing your gas cap back on for all eternity

5) Robot is racist and doesn't service some people

6) Robot sees a Lamborghini pull up and tries to mate with it, costing the gas station around $400,000

These are all nightmare scenarios that are all too possible if the robots aren't maintained. We'll need people to do this. No way I'd trust other robots!

Re:Robots will be an economic disaster. (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313826)

Or maybe not allow corporations to own robots, and only let people own 1 robot. One which can either work in place of you and you get a paycheck from that.
Right, because societies that have fought progress have traditionally done better than those that haven't.

If robots can replace all the non creative jobs, perhaps it will be time for a form of socialism
We're so far away from this it's not even funny. If we can't make an AI that can beat a competent Go player, how are we supposed to create an AI that can properly handle local ad campaigns, program other software with vague parameters, design a more productive model of robot, etc? You're looking at something that will take decades at least to come around. Humans are versatile to the extreme, able to run long distances, manipulate small and large things, climb most surfaces, etc. Robots, on the other hand, are built and designed for one purpose, and trying to do something more complex with a reasonable margin of error has proven to be beyond our current abilities.

Since it'll be decades before this revolution you're hinting at starts, I for one am going to wait to see what happens, because who knows what will have happened by then?

Uneconomical Impractical or Both (4, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313364)

Suppose that this robot works perfectly every time without hassling the customers, damaging their vehicles, wasting their time, or generally causing other problems which cost the gas station owner money (a big assumption). From the standpoint of the gas station owner why invest in this robot when your customers already pump their own gas at no additional cost to you? I can think of only three (3) possibilities. First, if your competitors install this robot AND enough of your customers refuse to gas up at your station because you DO NOT have the robot then it might make sense provided that the margin (thin already for independent station owners) is able to support the cost which brings up the next point. Second, your customers are willing to pay more for their gas for the novelty OR the convenience of having a robot pump it for them (perhaps, but certainly a niche. Most people are very price sensitive when it comes to buying gas, driving miles out of their way to save a couple of pennies in some cases). Third, the local laws require a human attendant anyway (Oregon has this type of law) where the present value of the gas station attendant's wages in perpetuity are more than the costs of purchasing and maintaining the robot (provided that the initial assumption about damage to property and persons remains true). In any case it is highly likely that this robot will not be widely used or fill only niche markets because it is a cost center for the gas station owner and not likely to be or become a profit center. At best, it might become a requirement of doing business, but I cannot see many gas station owners installing and using the robot unless they are forced to by either the marketplace or the government.

Re:Uneconomical Impractical or Both (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313612)

OR the convenience of having a robot pump it for them

I've always thought Belgium's and Holland's climate was mild, but there has been days in the NE USA when it was -20 in wind chill factor in which I would have gladly choose a gas station with a robot over one that did not. I remember seeing this way back for development for some Scandinavian country so that people didn't have stand around in sub zero temperatures pumping gas.

Also... In strange places like New Jersey, the state government has made it illegal for a person to pump their own gas so it might take off there.

Re:Uneconomical Impractical or Both (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313706)

On those mornings that I fill up before heading to work and the temperature is below freezing, I would be willing to pay an additional few cents per gallon for this feature. I fill up only 10-11 gallons usually so even at a 5 cent increase that's only 55 cents for not having to leave my warm car.

Obviously the price of this would come down if it started to get used a lot, but I'd still like to see it become impractical due to cars going to electric motors or something. Maybe then you could have a robot that will plug it in the outlet for you. Then again, with how long it would take to charge an electric engine, you'd probably be getting out of the car to eat at some restaurant anyway.

Re:Uneconomical Impractical or Both (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313870)

Fourth, they can do it faster. Since people don't need to get out of their vehicles, it could save time at the pump, especially if mixed with a program where you don't have to present your credit card every time. If the robots have a high enough reliability, they can also push the gas through the nozzle faster. During rush hour this would be very useful, since I've seen cars line up at plenty of gas stations.

Re:Uneconomical Impractical or Both (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313914)

I vote we just put barrels of gas out in the open, and customers can ladle it into buckets in the trunks of their cars. Think of the cost station owners would save on pumping it out of the ground! Just put a monkey out on the street and drivers would throw quarters into a cup. Why have any safety systems at all!

Only one question (1)

darkhitman (939662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313430)

So, how soon until we find out that gas-pumping robots, too, can die in freak, gasoline-fight accidents?

whatever you do (1)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313450)

don't get out of your car and attempt to pick anything up, unless of course, you're "into" that kind of stuff (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Roll on the obesity (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313504)

I know its not exactly a serious workout, but jesus, are people too lazy to do this themselves? Frankly I enjoy getting OUT of the car and stretching my legs, its never exactly a major chore.

Re:Roll on the obesity (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313774)

Have you ever been to the prairies?

Evidently you don't live in a part of the world where it drops to 40 below... and then gets windy. Where getting punched in the face would be more pleasant than standing still and holding a frigid hose next to your car for 5 minutes. Where you have to put gloves, hats, and scarves on, just to get out of your car that long without freezing bits.

Re:Roll on the obesity (1)

aberkvam (109205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313788)

I am betting that you live closer to the equator than I do. Sure, on a balmy summer evening it can be pleasant to pump one's own gas. But when that -40 wind chill kicks up from across the icy lake, I would gladly pay a few extra pennies to have a robot do the pumping. (Of course, the robot would have an OUT OF ORDER sign on it because of the extreme cold...)

lazy bastards ahoy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313520)

jeez! filling up your own car isnt rocket science. (and some people take
some pleasure in actually squeezing the trigger and saying goodbye
to mucho $$$$

in Italy they have 24 hour unattended fuel stations where you
simply put money/paycard into a payment machine, select your
pump and it'll dispense up to that amount of cash. thats
even better than this robot junk.

Had to happen... (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313528)

...when the Autobahn gas stations got robot-cleaned toilet seats, this couldn't be far behind.

rj

Re:Had to happen... (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313990)

If they work as well as this one, [cabel.name] then I, for one, will not be welcoming my new robot overlords.

PS: my truck (1993 Toyota pickup) requires an actual key to open the flap. (A bit of a pain compared the the little lever under the driver's seat of most cars (plus the cap is on the passenger side) but hey, at least I've never locked my keys inside at the gas station!) I'm not sure how these robots will deal with that. Maybe the first one will slice off the flap with an acetylene torch?

What about the Fuel Cap tether? (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313532)

The article is light on details. What does the robot do with the cap while it's pumping? My car for instance has a tether so you can't lose the cap. This would prevent the robot from taking it in it's possesion while it pumped fuel. Most fuel caps don't have this tether so they would have to be held on to. How does the Robot figure this out?

Little Math (1)

BigJClark (1226554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313564)

I will make several assumptions
1) Minimum wage is $5/hr
2) The employer pays no additional benefits
3) There are 260 work days in a year.


One employee would have to work 22,000hrs to cost the same as the initial startup capital cost of buying this machine. At 8hr/day, thats 2750 days. Ergo, thats ~10.5 years of labour.

Worth it? I've probably made some basic math error somewhere, that you guys will make funny of me for, so I'll say it now, screw you! :) :)

Re:Little Math (1)

d3l33t (1106803) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313652)

you didn't factor in maintenance, or electric costs

Re:Little Math (1)

BigJClark (1226554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313714)

Well, thats why I said "Initial startup cost". I perhaps should have made the assumption that $110,000 would deliver a ready to go, robot at the pumps. Ready to pump on day #1

Re:Little Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313742)

They'll probably just make fun of you for saying "make funny of me," not for your math.

Re:Little Math (1)

Lao-Tzu (12740) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313902)

Well, I think you're looking at it a little backwards. I would say that the robot is going to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, constantly replacing at least one employee.

24 hrs / day * 365 days / year * $5 / hr = $43,800 / yr saved. In addition, at the end of 2.511 years, when the robot has worked off its capital cost, the owner still has a robot worth a considerable amount (say, $45,000, assuming ~30% depreciation annually).

Is $110,000 the cost for one robotic pump, or is it the cost of a robotic station? A few of these could reduce the labor costs of a gas station to a single attendant.

Of course, it seems cheaper to just provide pre-pay-only pumps and zero or one attendant at the station. The labor of pumping gas is done by the driver, and you save $110,000 per pump (I assume?) on a robot.

I'll tell you what could possibly go wrong. (1)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313576)

My first job out of high school was working at a gas station. Some lady drove off while the hose was still in her car. It ripped the hose right off the pump, which started spewing gasoline everywhere.

Fortunately, being a full-serve station, I was nearby and able to shut off the pump before we went up in a mushroom cloud. But what if there was no human attendant?

Re:I'll tell you what could possibly go wrong. (1)

GenP (686381) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313814)

My first job out of high school was working at a gas station. Some lady drove off while the hose was still in her car. It ripped the hose right off the pump, which started spewing gasoline everywhere. Fortunately, being a full-serve station, I was nearby and able to shut off the pump before we went up in a mushroom cloud. But what if there was no human attendant?
Epic lulz?

Re:I'll tell you what could possibly go wrong. (1)

Av8rjoker (1212804) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313966)

Maybe someone else would hit the clearly visible "Emergency Stop" button?

100k? (1)

d3l33t (1106803) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313580)

I thoroughly enjoy reading articles about Dutch, gas filling robots. Especially at such a low cost, only 100k. I wonder how much money, and no doubt time, was invested into this project, yet we can't seem to develop a mainstream alternative fuel?! What the fuck people. Not to mention, US-LHC budget being cut and experiments that find the basic building blocks of the universe have to be shut down 3 months early, while the dutch get high on fumes. I 3 2008

Looking Ahead (1)

slig (1233832) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313634)

I hope those babies are modular and they've been engineered for future retrofit. It seems like a lousy investment if they're only configured to pump gas in a future looking (thankfully) petrol free. Can they juice a hybrid, or drop some hydrogen pellets as well? Unless they can do that, why not give real people something to do besides breed.

What's Next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22313680)


A topless female robot gas station attendant?

Slashdot is dead. Long live Yahoo!

But what's the point of it ? (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313696)

What's the point of automating a task that is not time consuming, is easy, isn't repetitive (except maybe for gaz guzzling huge SUVs that must be re-filled every couple of miles) and perfectly safe when done by humans. Better, the human are even more precise and don't require a database of known models to locate the cap. They just find it. (And are less likely to scratch the car while attempting to ram the fuel hose into a location where the cap is supposed to be on another different mis-recognized model).

Also the robot is pretty expensive, and adds few benefits to the station except the "novelty" effect (the first week after the robot gets installed, everyone would like to try it. The the fad will pass). This won't help the station as they will have to pass the robot's cost to their consumer and the fuel is pretty much expensive already.

I don't know, but I think that money would be better spent at finding something more environmentally friendly to put inside the hose rather than a robot to hold the hose.

It makes sense for cows : Farmer have a large number of cow, the task is time consuming and repetitive and a robot is available 24/24h whenever the cow decides to get milked and the whole diary cow business isn't going to disappear any time soon.
But I fail to see the point of this robot for cars.

Its for people with disabilities (2, Insightful)

Proto23 (931154) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313740)

Not to spoil your party, but the robot is for people with disabilities who drive their car but have a hard time getting out alone. Like when you need to pump your own gas.

and what if... (1)

TheRealZeus (1172755) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313830)

you have a car where the gas cap is on the rear \_(o.0)_/

Keys? (1)

jsiren (886858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313874)

This doesn't fare well with anti-theft measures: as far as I know, all current European Fords have a lock on the flap. You need the ignition key to open it. I don't know about other makes, but I remember seeing gas caps with locks. Some cars' gas caps must be opened with a button on the dashboard.

So here's how it goes:

  1. Pull up near robot.
  2. Stop engine or produce spare key.
  3. Step out and open the gas cap with the key.
  4. As your only key is now in the gas cap, figure out how to get it off without relocking the gas cap.
  5. Having struggled the key loose, start the car.
  6. Panic as the car runs very roughly and the "check engine" light turns on, since your gas cap is not properly attached and leaks air, which disrupts the delicate balance of yin and yang within the engine management system.
  7. With 20 drivers honking and swearing at you whilst ignoring the 10 vacant pumps, pull up to the robot anyway, having decided to look into this ASAP (when you have some money, or when the car dies, whichever comes first).
  8. Watch in amazement as the robot first swiftly opens the flap, then starts turning your half-unlocked gas cap one way; when it stops, turns it the other way, whereupon it promptly locks. The car, which you have forgotten to stop, now runs perfectly smoothly, whilst the robot has a hard time figuring which way to turn your gas cap, which now refuses to budge, since it has gotten the idea that somebody is trying to steal your hideously expensive European gas, and it will fight to the very end to stop it.
  9. As the robot finally gives up, pull up to a regular pump, letting the next sucker of the 35 in line repeat the excercise in futility.
  10. Stop the car, take the key with you, walk to the gas cap, insert the key.
  11. Attempt to open the gas cap, only to find that the robot has managed to wind it so tight that the lock won't open any longer.
  12. Ask inside for a pipe wrench or some kind of a tool, getting only a blank stare in response.
  13. Phone your mechanic to explain the situation.
  14. After your mechanic has stopped laughing, ask for a price quote.
  15. After you have stopped laughing, calculate whether the gas in the tank will cover the drive to the garage.
  16. Having gotten the answer "just barely", start hypermiling your way there.
  17. As you run out of gas 5 km before you reach the garage, phone the mechanic and ask to be towed.
  18. Ask the mechanic if you can have a discount for bringing such amusement to his life.
  19. Once at the garage, do not ask about the "check engine" light. It will bring about further hilarity and cost you dearly.
  20. Having paid the mechanic a hefty premium for the seven drops of gas he put in your tank, pull up at the first gas station you see. Stay clear of all manner of robots.

You dutch geeks please go get a life (1)

barocco (1168573) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313908)

"Dutch wives" [japansugoi.com] already perform full service at a much lower price!

Hollywood nothing... (1)

TBone (5692) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313926)

I think the adult toy business has already gone down this path :)

I can see problems with this... (1)

mikehunt (225807) | more than 6 years ago | (#22313972)

Like many people, in countries where the price of fuel makes the average American go pale
when translated into dollars, I have a locking filler cap. This robot needs to come round
to my window, politely ask for my key and unlock the thing itself!
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