Ford, Domino’s test pizza delivery by self-driving cars

The days of the pizza delivery boy may be numbered, as Ford and Domino’s Pizza team up to start delivering pizza using self-driving cars.

Over the next next six weeks, randomly selected Domino’s customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, can get their pizza delivered from a Ford Fusion autonomous vehicle. An engineer will be sitting behind the wheel behind tinted windows to steer the vehicle if necessary.

For Ford, the partnership only marks its latest move to expand its autonomous vehicle technology to stay ahead of Apple, Google and Uber in the race to build self-driving cars. In January, Ford CEO Mark Fields announced a five-year, $4.5 billion plan to build cars with self-driving capabilities by 2021. The next month, Ford invested $1 billion in Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence company Argo AI to help reach its goal.

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“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’s vice president of autonomous and electric vehicles, in a press release.

Customers can track their on-the-way pizza on the Domino’s mobile app. Once the pizza arrives outside their home, they will receive a unique code to unlock the pizza from its Heatware compartment inside the vehicle.

“We’re interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery,” said Domino’s U.S. President Russell Weiner. “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? 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.”

This won’t be the first time food is transported by an autonomous vehicle. One example: Last year, Otto, the self-driving truck company, hauled more than 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer over 120 miles on Colorado’s I-25 freeway.

Otto, however, is now at the center of a highly publicized lawsuit between Uber and Google-owned Waymo. Its founder, Anthony Levandowski, allegedly stole Waymo trade secrets to start Otto and sold Otto to Uber in 2016.

For those living in Ann Arbor, however, don’t bet on having your pizza delivered in this futuristic style. Only one car will be deployed in Ann Arbor, according to the Chicago Tribune.

And perhaps for the remaining skeptics, NBC’s Today Show got a sneak peek at how exactly this technology will work.

Photo: Domino’s Pizza and Ford Motor are launching an industry-first collaboration to understand the role that self-driving vehicles can play in pizza delivery. (Courtesy Ford) 

 

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