In order to find out how its customers would react if their pizza was delivered by an autonomous car, Domino’s Pizza is conducting an experiment in partnership with Ford Motor Company. Ford will supply a driverless Ford Fusion Hybrid which will be equipped with a LIDAR system, radar, sensors and cameras. The experiment will be conducted for a period of about a month.
Despite the fact that the motor vehicle being used in the experiment has the self-driving delivery vehicle label on it, it is not really autonomous. Rather there will be a Ford engineer who will be sitting behind tinted windows and who will be driving the car. There will also be another engineer monitoring input from the vehicle’s hardware.
Once the car arrives at the destination, the customer who ordered a pizza will receive an SMS indicating that the pizza they ordered has arrived. When the customer gets to the car they will get a touchscreen placed at the passenger window at the rear of the car. The customer will be required to key in the last four figures of the mobile phone number from which the order was placed. The window will then roll down and the customer will be able to pick the pizza from an oven inside the car. After the customer has picked the pizza the window will roll back up before the vehicle thanks the customer. It will then drive away.
The tests will benefit Ford since it is planning on selling autonomous delivery vehicles in the coming five years. Domino’s Pizza, on the other hand, will find out if customers are interested in automated deliveries. The partnership between Ford and Domino’s is an example of the direction the new chief executive officer of Ford, Jim Hackett, has been pushing the carmaker towards since his days as the Ford Smart Mobility head.
Multi-purpose autonomous cars
Hackett has set a target of delivering to the market a fully autonomous car without a gas pedal, brake pedal or a steering wheel by 2021. The new Ford CEO also wants the driverless vehicle to be multi-purpose so that it isn’t merely use in ride-sharing fleets or in particular geographic areas.
“It’s not just ride-sharing and ride-moving or people moving, but it’s also moving the goods. We develop the plan to go to market as we develop the tech. We work with partners (and) this is one example. There will be more in the future,” said Ford’s autonomous and electric cars vice president, Sherif Marakby.