Delivery with­out driv­ers

Domino’s, Ford test self-driv­ing cars, re­sponse in six-week trial

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - FOOD - The As­sO­Ci­Ated Press

No ring of the door­bell, just a text. No tip for the driver? No prob­lem in this test, where Domino’s and Ford are team­ing up to see if cus­tomers will warm to the idea of pizza de­liv­ered by driver­less cars.

Start­ing to­day, some piz­zas in Domino’s home­town of Ann Ar­bor, Mich. will ar­rive in a Ford Fu­sion out­fit­ted with radars and a cam­era that is used for au­ton­o­mous test­ing. A Ford en­gi­neer will be at the wheel, but the front win­dows have been blacked out so cus­tomers won’t in­ter­act with the driver.

In­stead, peo­ple will have to come out of their homes and type a four-digit code into a key­pad mounted on the car. That will open the rear win­dow and let cus­tomers re­trieve their or­der from a heated com­part­ment. The com­part­ment can carry up to four piz­zas and five sides, Domino’s Pizza Inc. says.

The ex­per­i­ment will help Domino’s un­der­stand how cus­tomers will in­ter­act with a self-driv­ing car, says com­pany pres­i­dent Rus­sell Weiner. Will they want the car in their drive­way or by the curb? Will they un­der­stand how to use the key­pad? Will they come out­side if it’s rain­ing or snow­ing? Will they put their pizza boxes on top of the car and threaten to mess up its ex­pen­sive cam­eras?

“The ma­jor­ity of our ques­tions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery ex­pe­ri­ence,” Weiner told re­porters last week.

Domino’s, which de­liv­ers one bil­lion piz­zas world­wide each year, needs to stay ahead of emerg­ing trends, Weiner says. The test will last six weeks, and the com­pa­nies say they’ll de­cide af­ter­ward what to do next. Domino’s is also test­ing pizza delivery with drones.

Weiner said the com­pany has 100,000 driv­ers in the U.S. In a driver­less world, he said, he could see those em­ploy­ees tak­ing on dif­fer­ent roles within the com­pany.

Ford Mo­tor Co., which wants to de­velop a fully driver­less ve­hi­cle by 2021, said it needs to un­der­stand the kinds of things com­pa­nies would use that ve­hi­cle for. The ex­per­i­ment is a first for Ford. But other com­pa­nies have seen the po­ten­tial for food de­liv­er­ies. Otto, a startup backed by Uber, de­liv­ered 50,000 cans of Bud­weiser beer from a self-driv­ing truck in Colorado last fall.

“We’re de­vel­op­ing a self-driv­ing car not just for the sake of tech­nol­ogy,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice-pres­i­dent of au­ton­o­mous and elec­tric ve­hi­cles. “There are so many prac­ti­cal things that we need to learn.”

Only one car will be de­ployed in Ann Ar­bor, and it has a spe­cial black-and-white paint job to iden­tify it as a re­search ve­hi­cle.

Cus­tomers in the test area will be cho­sen ran­domly when they or­der a pizza.

Domino’s Pizza is run­ning the trial in its home­town of Ann Ar­bor, Mich. to test cus­tomer re­ac­tions.

The As­so­ci­AteD Press

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