self-driving Domino's Ford
To tip or not to tip a robot car?

Domino’s Pizza and Ford Motor company are taking a giant leap forward to get you a hot pizza fast. The two companies have partnered to launch a test program to research self-driving vehicles’ roles in the delivery process. There are a few experiences both parties are interested in learning more about.

Ford is hoping to launch production of an autonomous Fusion Hybrid in 2021. For the collaboration with Domino’s, it’s outfitted a Fusion Hybrid car with the self-driving technologies required of any autonomous vehicle, but they’ve gone a step further to customize the Domino’s test. With local builder Roush Enterprises creating the Domino’s Heatwave Compartment, they’ve incorporated a warming oven/safe built into the Fusion. This partnership will show Ford not just how it can create a safe self-driving car but also how it can customize vehicles in an economy that may soon ask for self-driving fleets.

Smart Vehicles, Smart Environment

“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.”

Domino’s is interested in whether an autonomous vehicle can even do the same job a delivery person can do. Select customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be able to order a Domino’s pizza and have it delivered via a self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid. Once the pizza is ordered, the customer will be kept updated of the pie’s progress. When the Fusion delivery car is nearby, the customer receives a text with the code to open the Domino’s Heatwave Compartment. When the vehicle arrives, the hungry person retries the pizza from the locked compartment.

The People Problem

The vehicle and its customizations are very cool. But Domino’s is interested in more than just the technical aspect of the transaction.

“We’re interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery,” said Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA. “The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience. For instance, how will customers react to coming outside to get their food? We need to make sure the interface is clear and simple. We need to understand if a customer’s experience is different if the car is parked in the driveway versus next to the curb. All of our testing research is focused on our goal to someday make deliveries with self-driving vehicles as seamless and customer-friendly as possible.”

But one question for this writer looms large over the collaboration: Do I tip an autonomous vehicle?—Sara Lacey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *