This Robotic Arm Will Refuel Your Car So You Don’t Have To

Danish startup Autofuel has developed a robotic arm capable of refueling a variety of vehicles at gas stations without any kind of human assistance.

A Neste fuel station in Finland is currently the only place in the world where you can have your car refueled by a robot. It’s the pilot site chosen by Autofuel to test its futuristic refueling system – a robotic arm that can locate a car’s fuel tank door, select the right type of fuel, and operate the pump without any kind of human assistance. The third-generation Autofuel robotic arm has been in testing for over a year, and the Danish company is planning to start public testing later this year. Although it may be a while before refueling robots become mainstream, Autofuel believes they will become invaluable when truly autonomous vehicles finally hit the roads.


Photo: Autofuel/Facebook

Autofuel first started working on a robotic car refueling solution back in 2018. The principal idea of the project was to reduce the potential exposure to harmful chemicals and fuel components at stations for both employees and customers, but there are other benefits to having a robot do all the work, including comfort and convenience, as well as safety in areas where people may feel reluctant to leave their vehicles. Then there is the benefits the robot brings to disabled persons who cannot refuel their own vehicles.

“Our technology intends to provide the customers with maximum comfort and safety at gas stations,” Jonas Thor Olsen, CEO of Autofuel, said. “Manual refueling demands the driver’s attention or direct involvement for at least as long as the car is refueled. The Autofuel system requires no human involvement. It allows them to go to the shop for a coffee or take a short break while the car is refueled.”


Autofuel’s solution consists of a modular robotic arm housed within the fuel pump, and a series of sensors and cameras designed to keep things running smoothly. Cameras detect the vehicle’s registration number so the system is able to detect what kind of fuel it requires. Another camera directs the car to stop in a certain area so that the arm can easily reach the fuel tank door. The arm itself then starts to move, opening the door, selecting the right fuel nozzle and finally refueling the car.

The whole thing looks great in promotional videos, but after one of them recently went viral on Reddit, people brought up quite a few valid concerns. First of all, in order for the entire process to work, one needs to have their vehicle registered with Autofuel. This is basically the only way for the system to recognize the type of car, the right fuel, and the payment options. That’s information a lot of people aren’t inclined to share for something as trivial as refueling, convenience be damned.


Then there is the matter of the fuel tank cap. A capless system is relatively easy for the robotic arm to deal with, but how does it deal with the various fuel caps still in use by many car manufacturers? We couldn’t find an answer to that question, but we assume that Autofuel is banking on the fact that the cars of the future will no longer need fuel tank caps. The company has stated that its robotic arm can easily be suited with electric and hydrogen fuel chargers.

The speed at which the robotic arm operates also has a lot of people concerned, as it appears to move much slower than a human, but Autofuel has clarified that while it could make it move a lot faster, current regulations prevent it from doing so, for safety reasons. The robot needs to move at a safe speed, and it also features that cause it to stop completely in case someone gets too close.


With robots and AI becoming such a big part of our lives lately, it’s easy to imagine solutions like Autofuel becoming mainstream in the near future.

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