Pepperoni, extra cheese … hold the driver? That could be the future, as Ford and Domino's study what role self-driving vehicles can play in pizza delivery.
The companies are testing the concept in Ann Arbor, Mich., where over the next several weeks randomly selected Domino's customers will get their pizzas delivered by a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle. For the tests, the cars will be manually driven by Ford safety engineers and staffed with researchers. Participating customers can track the delivery car through GPS. As the car approaches, text messages will alert customers about how to retrieve their pizzas using a unique code to unlock the Domino's-trademarked "heatwave compartment" inside the vehicle.
Ford, which has a goal of putting self-driving cars into production by 2021, is conducting the research to understand how autonomous driving technology can be applied to enhance customer experiences. "Domino's shares our vision for a future enabled by smart vehicles in a smart environment that enhance people's lives," says Sherif Marakby, Ford's VP for autonomous and electric vehicles.
Russell Weiner, president of Domino's USA, says, "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."
Left unsaid was the potential of customer savings on driver tips—unless, of course, the self-driving cars demand a little compensation.