The world's first gas-pumping robot, described as a 'spectacular innovation,' has begun unscrewing gas caps and topping up tanks in the Netherlands.

Dutch inventor and Shell station owner Nico van Staveren began work on the robot, dubbed tankpitstop, with a team of engineers in 2005.

The robot matches cars to a database of fuel caps and fuel types. A long robotic arm pulls open the gas flap, unscrews the cap and pumps the gas. The robot is also equipped with an automatic payment system.

Van Staveren said the robot will make filling up more convenient for drivers and reduce unnecessary spills at the pump.

"This is really a spectacular innovation," said Maria Van der Hoeven, the minister of economic affairs, at the unveiling in Emmeloord on Monday.

Van Staveren said he hopes the robot, which cost 75,000 euros or about $110,000 Cdn. to manufacture, will be in operation in more Dutch stations by the year's end. He told Reuters he was inspired to invent the robot after a trip to a farm.

"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," he said. "Drivers needn't get dirty hands or smell of petrol again."