Here is a riddle for you, what do Domino’s Pizza and Ford have in common? The two companies are teaming up to trial self-driving pizza delivery cars over in Michigan, US, to try and better understand how customers respond to and interact with autonomous vehicles. They are testing the water, and in the coming few weeks randomly selected Domino’s customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan will be faced with the option to accept their delicious pizza’s from a Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle.
However before you get ahead of yourself and think it will be free pizza, the car won’t just be driving itself.
Every car will be driven by a Ford safety engineer, and will also have other researchers onboard, who will concentrate on the last 50ft of customer experience.
Vice President of Ford Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification, Sherif Marakby described the project as ethnographic research.
He said: “We don’t want to wait until we get everything done on the tech and remove the driver. We’re trying to start doing the research. We still are working on the technology, because it’s not ready to be put on public streets. It’s simulating that the vehicle is in autonomous mode.”
If you do chose to participate in the test your order can be tracked through a Domino’s app and users will receive a unique code that matches the last four digits of their phone number to be used to unlock the so-called Heatwave Compartment – a container that keeps pizzas warm in the back of the car.
The information will be communicated through screens and speakers on the exterior of the cars.
“We’re interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery,” Russell Weiner, President of Domino’s USA, said in a statement. “The majority of our questions are about the last 50ft of the delivery experience.”
The experiment will focus on areas such as; how willing people are to come outside and pick up their orders, the way that people approach the car and how people interact with the screen outside the vehicle to get the food.
Marakby said this is the first of multiple partnership between Ford and other companies as part of efforts to ramp up autonomous vehicle testing. “The key thing is that our development is going to benefit from these partnerships,” Marakby said. “We will incorporate changes when we launch at scale in 2021, whether it’s perishable or non-perishable deliveries.”
Lots of different carmakers, including Ford have heavily invested in autonomous technology, with a focus being on bringing self-driving cars to market by 2021.
Earlier this year, the company announced plans to invest $1bn in Argo AI, an Artificial Intelligence startup.
“The human aspect is the most significant piece here. We know we can create technology, but it has to be based on the human element of how we’re using the AVs,” Marakby said.