Coming soon: the Pizza delivery robot
DOMINO'S is trialling pizza delivery by autonomous car in the US - but there is just one catch. It can't get the pizza to your door.
The car can get from the store to an address without the need of human intervention, and customers can track their order on a smartphone app. But the last steps are proving to be a hurdle.
Beacons with radars, cameras and lasers dotted over the experimental car constantly read the road conditions, other traffic, pedestrians and cyclists. It can even read traffic light signals and stop signs.
However the experiment still requires someone to put the pizza in the car at the store - and for the customer to come out to the road or driveway to collect their order.
Customers simply enter the last four digits of the phone number they ordered from, and the passenger side rear window opens so they can collect their pizza.
"We're still focused on the last 50 feet,” Domino's spokeswoman Jenny Fouracre told the Reuters news agency. "That's a big challenge - getting (the pizza) from the curb to the door.”
Ford says Domino's customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will have the opportunity to receive their delivery order from its autonomous car over the next few weeks.
Customers who agree to participate in the trial will be able to track the delivery vehicle using a phone app; they will also receive text messages as the car approaches.
"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,” Patrick Doyle, Domino's president and CEO, said in a media statement.
"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.”
For now, Ford has a driver and a researcher on-board its test cars - and during the Domino's experiment - in case of emergencies.
But eventually, Ford says, the technology will be reliable enough to not require a steering wheel.
Ford has previously said its driverless vehicle with this advanced technology will be showroom-ready by 2021. However initially it will be sold to fleet customers rather than private buyers.
There are no immediate plans to test this technology with Domino's outlets in Australia as Ford currently does not have an autonomous vehicle here for testing.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling