News that automotive giant Ford is busily preparing autonomous vehicle technology will come as no surprise, but the automaker’s latest research partner is perhaps an unexpected one, with pizza chain Domino’s teaming up to investigate driverless pizza delivery in the USA.
For the next few weeks Domino's customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be randomly selected to have their order delivered by one of Ford’s autonomous research vehicles.
Customers that take part in the program will be able to track the progress of their delivery via an upgraded version of the existing Domino’s Tracker service as well as receiving a notification via SMS as their delivery arrives with a unique code to unlock a heated compartment within the vehicle, ensuring the pizza doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.
While the process sounds almost entirely human-free the specially equipped Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle will be staffed with researchers, with a human Ford engineer behind the wheel.
The study intends to investigate how customers will react to driverless delivery, including monitoring customer expectations of the technology, and the impact it will have on businesses.
"We're interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery," said Russell Weiner, president of Domino's USA.
"The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience. For instance, how will customers react to coming outside to get their food? We need to make sure the interface is clear and simple.”
"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." Said Weiner.
Domino's isn’t the only company analysing the new technology with Uber already undertaking research in conjunction with Volvo and Ford with relation to how the technology may impact its business. Apple and Google’s new Waymo division are also pursuing options to develop driverless technology.
While autonomous development continues apace with automakers and tech firms investing heavily in research, government legislation in most jurisdictions still trains the development curve of the technology with analysts and automakers claiming that legislative could slow adoption of the technology locally.