Domino's has already explored some pretty edgy ways of getting its pizzas to hungry customers, including flying robots and others that roll along the ground. For its latest foray in automated pizza delivery, it has teamed up with Ford for a self-driving vehicle research project that could one day mean good-bye pizza guy.
The venture is described as consumer research, and is aimed at learning how customers feel about having their pizzas delivered by a self-driving vehicle. The Ford vehicles will be driven manually and carry researchers onboard, with participating customers able to track the delivery vehicle through GPS and then receive a text message when it arrives. That text message will also include a code to unlock the Heatwave compartment inside the vehicle and retrieve the pizza.
"The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience," said Russell Weiner, president of Domino's USA. "For instance, how will customers react to coming outside to get their food? We need to make sure the interface is clear and simple. We need to understand if a customer's experience is different if the car is parked in the driveway versus next to the curb. All of our testing research is focused on our goal to someday make deliveries with self-driving vehicles as seamless and customer-friendly as possible."
Ford's Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicles will be used for the trial, and the Heatwave compartment is based on the same technology used to keep pizzas warm in Domino's Delivery Expert vehicle from 2015. The trials begin in the coming weeks, with randomly-selected Domino's customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan to be offered the chance to participate.