Domino’s, Ford Bring Pizza Delivery Robots To Ann Arbor

Conservative estimates predict that there will be 10 million autonomous driving vehicles on American roadways by the year 2020. While most of these will be commercially owned and operated to haul goods around North America, some will be delivering smaller cargo.

Such as piping hot pizza pies in cardboard boxes with two-liters and bags of breadsticks.

Domino’s Pizza and Ford Motor Company are bringing a limited run of ADV’s to the Ann Arbor market, where those placing delivery orders can elect to have their pie and extras delivered without any human involvement between the kitchen where it’s made and the living room where it’ll be devoured.

The trial is being conducted to “understand the role that self driving vehicles can play in pizza delivery.”

Researchers from both companies will be in Ann Arbor to directly monitor and study customer reactions to interacting with the ADV pizza deliverers in order to gauge customer response to the “future of food delivery,” as Domino’s put it in a press release.

“As delivery experts, we’ve been watching the development of self-driving vehicles with great interest as we believe transportation is undergoing fundamental, dramatic change,” said Patrick Doyle, Domino’s president and CEO. “We pride ourselves on being technology leaders and are excited to help lead research into how self driving vehicles may play a role in the future of pizza delivery. This is the first step in an ongoing process of testing that we plan to undertake with Ford.”

Ford will use the data from the study to improve their development and production of ADV’s so the car of the future takes all vehicle roles into consideration, from commuters to large haulers to pizza deliverers.

Ford reportedly plans on beginning large-scale production of ADV’s starting in 2021.

“As we increase our understanding of the business opportunity for self-driving vehicles to support the movement of people and goods, we’re pleased to have Domino’s join us in this important part of the development process,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford vice president, Autonomous and Electric Vehicles. “As a company focused on the customer experience, Domino’s shares our vision for a future enabled by smart vehicles in a smart environment that enhance people’s lives.”

Over the next several weeks, randomly-selected Domino’s customers in Ann Arbor will have the opportunity to receive their delivery order from a Ford Fusion Hybrid ADV, which will be manually driven by a Ford safety engineer and staffed with researchers.

Customers who agree to participate will be able to track the delivery vehicle through GPS using an upgraded version of Domino’s Tracker. They will also receive text messages as the self-driving vehicle approaches that will guide them on how to retrieve their pizza using a unique code to unlock the “Domino’s Heatwave Compartment” inside the vehicle.

“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. 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.”

Local partner Roush Enterprises fabricated the prototype vehicle’s pizza container, Domino’s Heatwave Compartment, based on its experience working with Domino’s on the DXP® delivery vehicle in 2015. Ford and Domino’s completed preliminary testing of the delivery process using the vehicle in self-driving mode at Mcity, the simulated urban environment on the University of Michigan’s campus. The city of Ann Arbor also has been supportive of the testing process.

“I’m delighted that Ann Arbor continues to be at the forefront of autonomous-vehicle research,” said Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor. “While it’s pizza delivery today, my hope is that collaborations such as this will enable even more innovations tomorrow.”

This post was partially generated from a Domino’s Pizza press release.

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