Two of North America’s most recognizable brands have come together to find what what pizza-lovers think of having their tasty treats delivered by autonomous vehicles.
Ford and Domino’s have kicked off a pilot project that will deliver randomly selected pizzas to homes in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area by self-driving Ford Fusion sedans, albeit ones with a human driver behind the wheel and a group of researchers riding along.
The idea is to find out how customers feel about the concept of taking a delivery person out of the picture and ending door-to-door service.
“We’re still focused on the last 50 feet,” said Domino’s spokeswoman Jenny Fouracre. “That’s a big challenge—getting (the pizza) from the curb to the door.”
But at least hungry individuals will be able to track their delivery vehicle’s location, and will get text messages telling them what to do once their pizza arrives, part of which will involve walking to the curb, possibly through snow or rain and in pyjamas and slippers.
Interestingly, this is not Domino’s first foray into automated pizza delivery: it has already experimented with it in New Zealand, using drones and self-driving robots.
For its part, Ford is playing the field to find applications and industries for the autonomous vehicle technology it says will be ready for prime-time in 2021. The automaker wants to put its developments to work in larger commercial vehicles like its Chariot ride-sharing service. That would put Ford in the same sandbox as Tesla – which is working on a self-driving semi truck – and Uber.
Domino’s says as a delivery company, it’s “watching the development of self-driving vehicles with great interest as we believe transportation is undergoing fundamental, dramatic change,” according to Patrick Doyle, the pizza company’s president and CEO.
There’s also the potential for pizza companies to save money by not having to pay delivery people, a concept that raises the spectre of the loss of jobs.
With that in mind, there’s one question that remains: Do we still have to tip?