The future of autonomous cars just gained the support of a major group: people with the munchies.
According to the hordes of tech-crazy gadget junkies (and yes – I am one of them), one day soon we’ll all be zipping around in driverless cars. But some people are still sceptical about getting into a car without a person behind the wheel. It’s a good thing, then, that all the brave Hawaiians, Reginas and Meaty Supremes out there don’t have the same reservations.
Domino’s Pizza has teamed up with car manufacturer Ford to offer some lucky, randomly-selected customers the opportunity to have their pizza order delivered by a specially-modified Ford Fusion – that comes equipped with self-driving technology as well as an on-board pizza oven.
The programme is being piloted in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and customers will have to agree to participate – at which point they’ll be able to upgrade to a new, GPS-powered version of Domino’s Tracker app. Once their order is ready, it’ll be picked up by the Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle (or FFHARV… that’s not a good acronym) . When Mr Roboto arrives, the customer will be sent a code to open the rear window and pull the pie from the Domino’s ‘Heatwave Compartment’ in the car’s back seat.
It all sounds very hi-tech, right?
Unfortunately for all the Blade Runner and Terminator fans out there, these cars aren’t actually powered by computers. The car won’t even be empty: a Ford safety engineer will be driving, and a researcher will be along for the ride, unseen behind the car’s blacked-out windows.
I know what you’re saying: it’s a scam (I was going to say uncrustworthy, but I have standards)! But the technology behind the driverless delivery isn’t really what this partnership is meant to test – they’ve got that down already. What Ford and Domino’s want to find out is: how customers will react to this technological marvel appearing on their doorstep? They’re simulating the process to gauge how people feel about the idea.
Mikey, Don and Raphael might be shouting, “Cowabunga!” at the idea of finally being able to get a delivery to Master Splinters sewer paradise, but this test isn’t a bad move by Ford, PR-wise. While the technology behind autonomous cars is improving every day, there will have to be a major change in public sentiment before they’ll be able to roll out across the globe.
These vehicles can be safer than human drivers (earlier this year, Tesla’s autopilot function predicted a car crash before any human could react), but the man on the street isn’t so sure, following a series of accidents involving driverless cars: Google, Volvo and Uber’s forays into the world of autonomous driving have all resulted in well-publicised incidents, and 40-year-old Joshua Brown died when his self-driving Tesla Model S drove into a truck in Florida. Brown was watching Harry Potter inside.
This isn’t the first time that Domino’s has shown an inclination towards fusing pizza with technology. They previously experimented with drone-delivery in New Zealand, and last year they even developed their own specially-equipped pizza delivery vehicle, the Domino’s DXP. The DXP, built from a modified Chevrolet Spark, has space for 80 pizzas and comes with its own own pizza-warming oven. They even built a self-driving pizza-delivery robot, the super DRU (Domino’s Delivery Unit), which delivered pizzas in Melbourne, Australia.
Domo arigato, Mr Roboto!
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