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Ford teams with Domino's on self-driving pizza delivery test
August 29, 2017 / 4:03 AM / 2 months ago

Ford teams with Domino's on self-driving pizza delivery test

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co and Domino’s Pizza Inc in September will begin testing Michigan consumers’ reactions to having their pies delivered by self-driving vehicles, the companies said on Tuesday.

It will not be the first experiment with advanced pizza delivery technology. Australia-based Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, the Ann Arbor-based company’s largest independent franchisee, has tested delivery to customers in New Zealand via drone and self-driving robot.

In a blog post last week, Sherif Marakby, head of Ford’s autonomous and electric vehicles, signaled the automaker’s broader ambitions, saying Ford planned to cooperate “with multiple partners” in deploying self-driving vehicles “designed to improve the movement of people and goods.”

Previously, Ford executives had said the company expected to launch a self-driving shuttle for commercial ride-sharing fleets in 2021.

Domino’s and Ford will deliver pizzas to randomly selected customers in the Ann Arbor area in a Ford Fusion Hybrid equipped with self-driving technology. The delivery vehicles initially will be piloted by human drivers.

A Ford self-driving delivery vehicle is pictured in front of a Domino's pizza restaurant in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters August 28, 2017. Ford Motor Company/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Customers will be able to track the delivery process via GPS and will receive text messages on how to retrieve their pizzas once the delivery vehicle has arrived.

A number of start-up delivery services, many of them funded by venture capital, have been experimenting with on-demand delivery of different packages, including groceries, prepared food and beverages. So have larger companies, from Uber Technologies [UBER.UL] to Amazon.

Opinion is still divided, however, on whether automation can help solve some vexing delivery problems, such as how to deliver pizzas economically to the fifth floor of a college dorm.

The Ford-Domino’s test vehicle will not attempt to resolve that conundrum. It will stop outside the customer’s house, so it will not provide true door-to-door delivery service.

“We’re still focused on the last 50 feet,” said Domino’s spokeswoman Jenny Fouracre. “That’s a big challenge - getting (the pizza) from the curb to the door.”

Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Dan Grebler

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