Ford Motor Company and Domino’s Pizza are to trial self-driving vehicles as a way to deliver orders to customers in Michigan, America.
As of September this year, the companies say they will begin the a one-month trial as a means of testing customer reactions to the service, which could eventually replace human couriers.
Initially the cars will not drive themselves. Instead, a Ford safety engineer will drive, while researchers observe the final 50 meters of delivery to assess the customer experience.
The rest of the trial, however, should replicate the final version of what an automated delivery should look like, on a limited scale. Ford Fusion Hybrid cars, equipped with self-driving technology, will be used to deliver pizzas to customers chosen at random in the Ann Arbor area. Customers will be able to monitor the entire delivery process via GPS, and will be sent a text message alerting them to its arrival.
According to TechCrunch, a special container known as the Heatwave Compartment, created by Domino’s partner Roush Enterprises, a product development specialist, has been designed to keep pizzas warm and secure during transit. Only the customer with the unique delivery code contained in the text message will be able to unlock the container to gain access to their pizza.
How will customers react?
“We’re interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery,” Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA, said in a statement. “The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience.”
Questions remain over whether automating delivery services will improve the efficiency with which products are delivered. Deliveries to hard-to-reach locations, such as apartment blocks for example, will be no better off made by this service, as compared to a human employee. Domino’s spokeswoman, Jenny Fouracre, admitted this difficulty, saying “That’s a big challenge – getting (the pizza) from the curb to the door.”
This does not mark Domino’s first foray into the business of autonomous delivery. The company has previously trialed delivery by self-driving robots and drones. Meanwhile, Ford has announced its intentions to launch to use an autonomous vehicle for a ride-sharing service in the United States by 2021, with European trials ongoing this year.