Research from the two companies will examine customer reactions to interacting with a self-driving vehicle as part of the delivery experience. This research, according to Ford, will help both companies understand customers’ perspectives around the future of food delivery with self-driving vehicles. Customers in the Ann Arbor, MI, USA area who agree to participate will be able to track the delivery vehicle through GPS via the Domino’s Tracker app, and will receive text messages as the self-driving vehicle approaches, which will guide them on how to retrieve their pizza using a unique code to unlock the Domino’s Heatwave Compartment inside the vehicle.
While the testing is set to take place soon, the actual delivery vehicles will not be "driverless." Instead, the car will be manually driven by a Ford safety engineer and staffed with researchers, who will be gathering data primarily on the last 50 feet of the delivery process.
"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."
Ford notes in its press release that as the company builds out its business enabled by self-driving vehicles, research such as this will be key to ensuring that the technology is applied in ways that enhance the customer experience. With the aim of getting self-driving vehicles in production by 2021, Ford is "taking steps to design a business to meet the needs of both partner companies and their customers."
"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."
Preliminary testing of the delivery process was completed using the vehicle in self-driving mode at Mcity, the simulated urban environment on the University of Michigan’s campus. The city of Ann Arbor also has been supportive of the testing process, according to Ford.
View the Ford press release.