This is an amusing one: Ford has announced a collaboration with Domino’s to explore the potential of autonomous vehicles in the delivery of food (or any other item, really) to the end user. In this case, it’s pizza.
On the surface, it seems like the kind of idea to come out of a midnight whiskey-fueled skinny dip into Lake Michigan. But, actually, it started to make perfect sense once past its potentially comical imagery. Basically, Ford and other automakers who are performing important research into autonomous vehicles need an excuse to put their cars on real roads.
Real world testing, or lack thereof, is one of the main reasons why rapid progress on this can seem sluggish. What this partnership with Dominos’ Pizza means is that Ford will be provided with a good reason for them to be roaming the streets, negotiating real traffic on real roads with real people.
Here, the stakes are so low that any lapse in the system’s ability to make a successful delivery will only mean that someone is denied a cheesy meal and some empty calories. Surely there will be the usual delivery pipeline on stand by as a back up. And how cool would it be to have self-driving Ford Fusion - ahem, Mondeo - make the pizza run instead of someone on a scooter. Only, it won’t be an empty vehicle, but with at least one Ford safety engineer behind the wheel (though not necessarily driving) to monitor the autonomous systems and to generally make sure things don’t screw up.
Ford will be helping Domino’s deliver pizza in Ann Arbor, Michigan over the next few weeks following a test period conducted around a simulated urban environment around the University of Michigan campus.
Domino’s 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.
“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. “As a company focused on the customer experience, Domino’s shares our vision for a future enabled by smart vehicles in a smart environment that enhance people’s lives.”
“I’m delighted that Ann Arbor continues to be at the forefront of autonomous-vehicle research,” said Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor. “While it’s pizza delivery today, my hope is that collaborations such as this will enable even more innovations tomorrow.”
Who knows, it might be a Ford Fusion right now, but why not a self-driving Mustang GT350R to deliver pizza in a few years?