Domino’s Tests Customers’ Reactions to Driverless Cars in Ann Arbor, Michigan

The pizza giant has partnered with Ford to simulate the experience of interacting with a self-driving car.





In a study being conducted in Ann Arbor, Michigan, researchers lay low behind tinted windows while customers interact only with the autonomous delivery vehicles as they retrieve their pizzas.

 

Moving the world one step closer to driverless pizza delivery, Domino’s has teamed up with Ford Motor Company to test customers’ reactions to self-driving pizza delivery cars, although the cars won’t actually be self-driven. 

Randomly selected customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be able to choose to have their pizzas delivered via a Ford Fusion Hybrid self-driving car. Although a Ford safety engineer and other researchers will be riding in the car, the customer won’t be able to see them behind tinted windows. The customer will be asked to interact with the technology itself rather than the humans inside, according to The Verge.

The research will focus on the last 50 feet of the customer experience, Domino’s spokesperson Jenny Fouracre told Reuters. “That’s a big challenge—getting (the pizza) from the curb to the door.”

Participating customers will be able to track their order using Domino’s app and will receive a special code matching the last four digits of their phone number. They will use the code to unlock the vehicle’s “Heatwave Compartment,” which keeps the pies warm in the back of the car. The customers will interact with the cars through exterior screens and speakers.

Sherif Marakby, vice president of Ford Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification, told The Verge that the project is meant to simulate the experience of driverless pizza delivery. “We don’t want to wait until we get everything done on the tech and remove the driver,” Marakby said. “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.”

One big question is whether customers will be willing to go outside to pick up their pizza on a rainy or snowy day, so it’s important to find out now rather than later, according to Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA. “We are delivery experts,” he told USA Today. “This is where the industry is going. We think we are the right company, and we certainly are working with the right partner to make this happen.”

 

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