Domino’s and Ford begin testing self-driving delivery vehicles with special heated pizza compartments

Domino's self-driving delivery vehicle

Domino’s Pizza and Ford Motor Co. have launched an industry-first collaboration to understand the role that self-driving vehicles can play in pizza delivery, it has been revealed.

As part of the testing, researchers from both companies will investigate customer reactions to interacting with a self-driving vehicle as a part of their delivery experience.  Trials will begin over the coming ways, with the cars fitted with specially-adapted hot-holding technology to keep the pizzas hot.

The research is expected to play an important part in future development activities as both companies begin to examine and understand customers’ perspectives around the future of food delivery with self-driving vehicles.

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“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 plan to begin production of self-driving vehicles in 2021, Ford said it was taking steps to design a business to meet the needs of both partner companies and their customers.

“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 vice president, Autonomous and Electric Vehicles.

Over the next several weeks, randomly-selected Domino’s customers in the state of Michigan will have the opportunity to receive their delivery order from a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle, which will be manually-driven by a Ford safety engineer and staffed with researchers.

Customers who agree to participate will be able to track the delivery vehicle through GPS using an upgraded version of Domino’s Tracker.

They will also receive text messages as the self-driving vehicle approaches that will guide them on how to retrieve their pizza using a unique code to unlock the Domino’s Heatwave Compartment inside the vehicle.

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

US firm Roush Enterprises fabricated the prototype vehicle’s pizza container, Domino’s Heatwave Compartment, based on its experience working with Domino’s on the DXP delivery vehicle in 2015.

Ford and Domino’s completed preliminary testing of the delivery process using the vehicle in self-driving mode at Mcity, the simulated urban environment on the University of Michigan’s campus.

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