Domino’s, Ford test consumer appetite for driverless delivery

Your local pizza delivery guy could be out of a job in the next few years.

Ford Motor Co. and Domino’s Pizza are collaborating on research into self-driving pizza delivery vehicles, and starting today will test dropping off pies with an autonomous Ford Fusion hybrid in Ann Arbor. The companies said Tuesday they established the partnership to study customer reaction to receiving pizzas by a self-driven vehicle.

“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,” Sherif Marakby, Ford vice president, autonomous and electric vehicles, said in a statement. “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.”

As part of the research, random Domino’s customers in Ann Arbor can choose to receive their pizza in a self-driving car — sort of. The Fusion hybrid is equipped with self-driving technology, but will be manually driven by a Ford safety engineer, the automaker said.

Customers will be able to track their orders through GPS, and will receive a text message when the vehicle approaches that shows them how to unlock and retrieve their pizza from a storage compartment in what would normally be the rear side window of the four-door sedan, all without interacting with an actual human.

Roush Enterprises created the pizza storage compartment based on research it did with Domino’s for its modified Chevrolet Spark DXP delivery vehicle in 2015.

“We’re interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery,” Russell Weiner, president of Ann Arbor Township-based Domino’s USA, said in a statement. “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…

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