As we’ve explored before, Domino’s is the Amazon of pizza. They innovate, they adopt new tech, and they dream big. Now they’re taking it all to 11 — working with Ford to bring you driverless delivery, and helping Ford understand how we interact with self-driving cars in the process.
The vehicle test will be taking place in Ann Arbor, MI, and it’s fairly simple. If you order Domino’s, you’ll have a choice of a human or a self-driving car. The car won’t be winging through without any human occupant, though: A Ford safety engineer will be behind the wheel, and the car will only be truly “autonomous” as it pulls into the driveway. As The Verge lays out, it’s really more about the “last 50 feet” of the experience. Customers will have to come out, punch a unique code into a screen, and get their pizza out of the compartment in the back of the car. Why? Sherif Marakby, Ford’s VP of Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification, explains they want to figure out if people even want a robot delivering their pizza in the first place:
We don’t want to wait until we get everything done on the tech and remove the driver. We’re trying to start doing the research. We still are working on the technology, because it’s not ready to be put on public streets. It’s simulating that the vehicle is in autonomous mode.
Whether people want robots even doing this job is a fair question. Many experiments with customer-service robots have been outright failures. Albertson’s, a regional grocery chain, discovered that self-checkout lanes encouraged theft and annoyed customers. China fired its robot waiters for gross incompetence. And everybody has met, and hates, the automated customer service line. Robots don’t understand humans, and that makes humans deeply resentful.
Self-driving vehicles doing some jobs is inevitable, even if it’s just highly intelligent golf carts and luggage that follows us through the airport. But while robot pizza delivery is a novelty, it’s also a useful way of figuring out how willing we are to interact with robots in our day-to-day lives. That we get pizza at the end of it is really just a bonus.