Would you walk outside of your home to collect a pizza from a driverless car?
Dominoes and Ford are exploring this possibility on the streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan over the next several weeks. The companies announced today they’re partnering to deploy driverless cars that will deliver pizzas to randomly selected customers.
The vehicles used in the project are Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Cars and will be equipped with a heated compartment accessible by the passenger side rear window. When the customer walks up to the window, they’ll have to enter a numerical code into a tablet to get access to the pizza.
The cars will still have human drivers behind the wheel and will primarily be tasked with collecting a whole new stream of on-road data about the delivery process, according to Ford VP of Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification Sherif Marakby. The partners are most interested in understanding the last 50 feet of the delivery experience, when the pizza finally reaches its destination.
The biggest question about driverless deliveries is the interaction between the customer and the driverless delivery vehicle. The research team won’t just be collecting the typical on-road data from sensors and cameras that autonomous test cars usually record — they’ll also be tasked with observing how the customers respond to the cars.
The randomly selected customers will have to agree to be part of the trial before the delivery. Then, the customer will be able to track the delivery vehicle via GPS using an upgraded version of Domino’s Tracker app, and guided through the pickup process through text messages. Domino’s will send a unique code for every order, which the customer will use to unlock a special heated compartment in the car that holds the pizza.
Instead of sending a delivery person to the front door, the Ford/Domino’s program will park the pizza car outside of residences in driveways, or even out on the road, according to Marakby. The team wants to see whether people are willing to venture outside the house to pick up the food, breaking the conventional order-in process and forcing them to change out of their pajamas to get their pizza.
Self-driving delivery is just one of many aspects in Ford’s broader autonomous vehicle strategy, and Marakby wrote more about its business potential in an earlier Medium post. Ford is aiming to have fully self-driving cars on the road by 2021.
The new Domino’s initiative means the automaker will actually begin to explore possibilities in the real world, joining other projects that are ready to bring our food straight to us, no drivers required. You might have to walk out to the curb to grab your pizza, but at least you won’t have to tip.