The Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Car

Sean T. Johnston

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You can learn a lot from delivering pizzas. Ford Motor Company and Domino’s® are shaking up the technology world with a new research program, which could be a glimpse into a not-too-distant reality filled with self-driving delivery vehicles.  


Randomly selected residents of Ann Arbor, Michigan, who order a Domino’s pizza for delivery will have the option to have their pie delivered by an autonomous Ford Fusion. These volunteers will be able to track the GPS progress of their delivery through a special, upgraded version of the Domino’s Tracker® (message and data rates apply).


“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.”


With a 2021 target date for beginning production of self-driving vehicles, Ford can use this opportunity to gain some good real-world data.


The question on the minds of researchers from both companies is pretty simple: how will customers interact with a self-driving delivery vehicle? While the question itself is straightforward, the answers may become much more complex, especially when you’re dealing with human behavior.


“We’re interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery,” said Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA. “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.”


As you would imagine, a futuristic concept like a self-driving pizza delivery vehicle requires a different kind of vehicle. A specially outfitted Ford Fusion, complete with an array of cameras, sensors and a sophisticated LiDAR® (LIght Detection And Ranging) system, will make the deliveries. Roush Enterprises created the specially designed Domino’s Heatwave Compartment™, meant to keep that pizza nice and toasty during the duration of the trip.


For safety purposes, a Ford test engineer will be in the vehicle, while researchers from both companies observe the interaction between man and machine. When the self-driving vehicle is close to the destination, customers will get a text message (message and data rates apply) with special instructions on how to retrieve their order using a unique code to unlock the Domino’s Heatwave Compartment™.


This research program will take place in Ann Arbor, which happens to be the headquarters of Domino’s Pizza, as well as home to MCity, the self-driving car urban testing environment at the University of Michigan.


What do you think of a world where self-driving cars can deliver hot pizza right to your address? What else would you like to see autonomous vehicles used for? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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