Domino’s just announced plans to start testing autonomous pizza deliveries within the U.S., doing so in partnership with Ford. This isn’t the first time the pizza maker has tapped self-driving vehicles for pizza deliveries — it started doing this in Europe earlier this year — but it does mark an expansion of the effort. Domino’s has put serious effort into expanding its use of modern technology, using everything from chat bots to drones.
Domino’s and Ford announced their new collaboration today, saying in a statement that this is the first joint effort of its kind. The move won’t bring a fleet of self-driving pizza vehicles (not for now, at least), but will instead kickstart an effort to understand how customers react to such a delivery method.
The effort will utilize a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle which will be used to deliver pizzas to some Domino’s customers in the Ann Arbor, Michigan region. The vehicle will contain researchers and will be driven by a Ford engineer, according to the companies. The customers themselves will know ahead of time that the special vehicle is being used and they’ll be able to track it using a special upgraded Domino’s Tracker.
The vehicle will be equipped with a Domino’s Heatwave Compartment; the customer will have to unlock that compartment and retrieve the pizza themselves even though there will be people in the car. The customer will receive text messages on how to do this. While all this is happening, the researchers will observe how well the process goes, and the companies can then use that data to refine how self-driving vehicles may one day be used for pizza deliveries.
There are some questions Domino’s is interested in answering, such as how customers will feel about having to walk outside to get their pizza themselves…will most people be okay with it, or will it result in a decrease in pizza deliveries? Is the interface confusing or will people be able to retrieve the pizzas without any trouble? The only way to get these answers is to start making the autonomous deliveries now.