If you're one of a lucky few Michiganders within range of one specific Domino's Pizza location in Ann Arbor, your next pizza could show up in a self-driving car... sort of.
Ford and Domino's announced Tuesday that the two companies have partnered up to gauge customer reaction to self-driving cars. Instead of just asking folks on the street how they view autonomous vehicles, Ford wants to integrate one of its cars into the pizza delivery process.
After ordering Domino's in the Ann Arbor area, the customer may receive a phone call asking if they'd like to participate in this study. If the recipient says yes, Domino's will load the customer's order into Ford's self-driving car. The recipient will receive a notification when the vehicle arrives, at which point they'll have to walk outside, input a code into a device on the side of the car, and then they can retrieve the pizza from a special window designed to keep the pizza warm on its trip.
The whole point of this exercise is to gauge customer reaction to self-driving cars. After all, it's not every day that a person will walk outside and see a car with multiple spinning lidar units, a whole bunch of sensors and a vinyl livery that very clearly spells out the car's intentions.
While it would be pretty cool if the car actually drove itself to the customer's home, that's not the case. Due to regulations regarding commercial use of self-driving vehicles, the car will not actually drive itself -- there'll be a Ford safety engineer and researchers in the front row, although the windows will be tinted dark enough to where the customer cannot easily see them. The car is wholly capable of driving on its own, but humans will be in control, which is a bit of a bummer.
But again, it's not about the act of actually programming a car to handle pizza delivery. Both Ford and Domino's will use this pilot program to gauge customer reactions. For example, are people fine with adding a few extra steps (literally!) to their pizza retrieval process? Will people get excited about not having to tip a self-driving car? Will robots scare them into refusing to leave the house? Those are the questions the partnership wants to answer.
This isn't the first time Domino's has experimented with dedicated pizza delivery vehicles. The company worked with General Motors to create the , which was a Chevrolet Spark outfitted with a dedicated pizza warmer.