Companies are testing out customers' reactions.

By David Meyer
August 29, 2017

Ordering pizza is becoming quite a futuristic experience—you can already use the Domino’s app for the Apple Watch to place your order, and soon you might see it delivered by a self-driving car.

Domino’s Pizza and Ford will in the coming weeks test out autonomous vehicles for deliveries in Ann Arbor, Michigan. However, the Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle that they’ll be using will be driven by a safety engineer.

That may not sound very autonomous, but the goal here is to figure out the logistics of the delivery itself. With no driver involved, customers will need to use a unique code to unlock a heated container and retrieve their cheesy treats, and the companies want to see how people will really cope with such a system.

“We will be looking at how customers respond to this new experience, which will require them to interact with the self-driving car instead of a delivery person—walking out to the vehicle instead of just walking to answer their front door,” wrote Ford autonomous vehicle vice president Sherif Marakby in a Medium post.

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Domino’s has been playing with the idea of autonomous vehicles for a couple years now. It has already announced tests of delivery robots in Australia and in Germany. Those trials were in partnership with smaller robotics startups, though, whereas the new test involves a more traditional car-maker.

Like its rivals, Ford is hard at work planning for a self-driving future. However, new Ford CEO Jim Hackett recently set aside his predecessor’s plan to have fully autonomous vehicles by 2021, indicating that this target was unrealistic.

“We believe self-driving technology can play a significant role in helping grow the market for restaurant delivery, serving as one way that we’ll build demand and scale for our autonomous vehicle business, in addition to people movement such as ride hailing,” Marakby said.

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