Domino's Autonomous Pizza Delivery Robot Doesn't Need Tipping

Domino's Pizza is working on replacing the traditional delivery person, with a new pilot of a robot courier going autonomous instead. While the pies and pepperoni may be the same, rather than a college kid in an old Prius it'll be a Nuro R2 that handles transportation to your door.

The pilot scheme has been in the pipeline for some time, in fact. Domino's and Nuro announced their collaboration all the way back in June 2019, at the time saying that the trial should kick off later that year.

Now, more a couple of years on, we're finally seeing the robot pizza deliveries begin. As originally promised it'll be in Houston first, and specifically from one particular Domino's Pizza location. Only those who make a prepaid order through the website, on certain days and times, and who are served by the Domino's in Woodland Heights, will be able to choose the N2 delivery.

Assuming you fit the various criteria, the experience will be a little more engaging than a regular delivery. Text messages will includes updates on how the order is progressing, including where the autonomous robot is located. There's also GPS tracking through the Domino's app.

When the R2 arrives outside, a PIN code tapped into the touchscreen will open the side door to reveal the pizza.

"There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space," Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, said of the pilot. "This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations. The growing demand for great-tasting pizza creates the need for more deliveries, and we look forward to seeing how autonomous delivery can work along with Domino's existing delivery experts to better support the customers' needs."

It's not the company's first such experiment. Domino's has also trialed delivering pizzas by drone, and even had a self-driving car pilot back in 2017. The latter, however, still had a human operator onboard, since the Ford autonomous vehicles used weren't allowed to drive on public roads without a physical driver in the vehicle to take over in emergency situations.

That's not a limit that applies to the R2, at least in certain locations. Nuro has already been running autonomous deliveries in multiple cities, its second-generation robotic vehicle having a set of different climate-controlled compartments to suit different types of food and item. Unlike smaller self-driving delivery robots, it's designed to operate on the road rather than sidewalks.

Whether it's all as practical in the long term as simply paying college kids to shuttle pizzas around remains to be seen.