Ford and Domino’s in autonomous pizza delivery research

Franchise pizza delivery company Domino’s Pizza and Ford have got together on a new research project where autonomous cars are used to deliver pizzas in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In a blog  posted yesterday, Sherif Marakby, Ford Vice President, Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification, said that the “initial focus” of the research together is “understanding the last 50 feet of the delivery experience”.

“What that means,” said Marakby, “is we will be looking at how customers respond to this new experience, which will require them to interact with the self-driving car instead of a delivery person — walking out to the vehicle instead of just walking to answer their front door.”

The automotive giant has been investing heavily in autonomous vehicle technology and has also indicated a strong interest in driving this into the delivery sector. Markaby said as much in the blog:

“Why are we interested in the movement of both people and goods?” asked Marakby. “It’s a simple decision if you look around at how people’s behaviors are changing, especially in cities. They’re beginning to choose shared transportation instead of ownership, and they’re shopping and ordering online, which is driving growth in the delivery business. Both segments are growth markets — food delivery revenue is expected to grow from $13 billion to $39 billion in the next five years — that can be served by self-driving vehicles.

“We believe self-driving technology can play a significant role in helping grow the market for restaurant delivery, serving as one way that we’ll build demand and scale for our autonomous vehicle business, in addition to people movement such as ride hailing.”

The tests in Ann Arbor will use a Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle.

Marakby said the questions the study will look to answer include: “Will [customers] be willing to walk out to the curb? Or do we need to park in their driveway? Will people be able to determine which side of the vehicle the pizza is on? How will they need to be notified upon arrival since there won’t be a delivery person knocking on their door? What type of interface works best to guide people through the process of getting their pizza?”

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