Automated gas stations

During a visit to Rotec, Mr. N. van Staveren (owner and director of the firm Van Staveren) started wondering why we are still manually refueling our cars when this can be done automatically. Reason enough for Rotec Special Projects to seriously investigate this. In close collaboration with Van Staveren, this led to the first operational refueling robot for passenger cars. Maria van der Hoeven, Minister of Economic Affairs, put into use the first fully automated refueling point, ‘Tankpitstop’, on February 4, 2008. This meant a world scoop for Emmeloord. Rotec Special Projects B.V. and N. van Staveren B.V. worked together on this project in complete secrecy for three years.

Identification

Radio frequency identification chip

The car of the customer is equipped with a radio frequency identification chip behind the windshield, processed in a sticker containing all the details of the car. The database of the Tankpitstop contains all information required: what fuel does this car use, where is the fuel cap located, what is the correct position of the fuel nozzle during refueling, what is the fuel capacity of a reservoir? Etc. The information of every brand and every type is obtained through a special module from the so-called learning station. This station is located at the distributor. The RFID sticker can’t be removed without losing its effect, meaning that it is inseparably connected to the car, not to the driver.

Instructions

Instruction display

When the car approaches the Tankpitstop, an instruction display, comparable to the one you’ll find at a car wash, will indicate where you should park your car and what the driver should do. Once the car is at the right spot, the sliding wall that safely hides the robot, is lifted. The car is identified telling the robot exactly where to find the fuel cap.

Robot system

Operation of the robot system

One of the three ‘hands’ of the robot arm, with a rubber suction cup for a finger, smoothly opens the fuel valve. Then, the position of the robot arm changes, and a second ‘hand’ unscrews the cap. Subsequently, the third ‘hand’ grabs the fuel nozzle, inserts it in the fuel slot and fills the reservoir. Afterwards, the fuel nozzle is put back in its position, the robot screws the cap back on and shuts the fuel valve. The robot retreats to behind the sliding wall, and the instruction display indicates that the car is ready to depart. The driver checks out without having to exit the car. Payment is processed through the authorization the owner has granted on registration.

Safety

User safety

Prior to ever action, the robot verifies the position of the car, since it may have moved, for instance as a result of a faulty handbrake. If this is the case, the robot will shutdown. This will also happen when the sensor detects movement nearby, for instance of children playing. The robot will then retreat to behind the sliding wall. The customer can also shutdown the refueling process by pressing the red button.