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Domino's and Ford begin consumer research of Pizza Delivery using self-driving vehicles

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Tags: Electric Cars » Self-Driving Cars » Ford Motors » Dominos

One of the long-predicted primary uses for autonomous self-driving cars is all kinds of delivery services. You could order a pile of lumber from Home Depot, and rather than rent a truck by the hour to drive it to your house on your own, Home Depot could send it in a self-driving truck. In this case instead of a human pizza delivery agent (a job I had myself over 30 years ago), Dominos would instead send the Pizza in a self-driving car. How does Domino's expect to get the Pizza upstairs to, for example, the second floor of a college dormitory? Or inside a hospital to a surgery team that's about to start an operation? Or elsewhere in that same hospital to a mother that just gave birth? Or upstairs in an apartment complex? Or to a hard-to-find apartment in a house that's been divided into aprtment units? There's all kinds of special situations I recall as a Pizza delivery driver that aren't satisfied by driving a car up to the front door and tooting a horn and expecting someone to come outside to retrieve the pizza.

Domino's has long been exploring alternate vehicles. Back in the 1990's they hired Corbin Motors to build a special version of the Corbin Sparrow where the rear end was designed for pizza's. Those cars are affectionately known as the Pizza-Butt Sparrows. Amongst the select few of us who know Corbin's history that is. You can imagine that a large cost center in Domino's financials is the salary and fuel costs for their current pizza delivery system -- humans driving gasoline powered cars. And, no, I did not work for Domino's. Instead I worked for Archies Pizza, a Pizzeria in Lexington KY that went out of business years ago but made really nice high quality pizza's from all kinds of fresh ingredients. There was a Domino's a half-block away from our store, of course.

I foresee this being a difficult service to develop because of all the special delivery situations that exist. One way it might work is to have a van with a mobile pizza kitchen. The raw pizza would be assembled at the store, then the delivery agent loads those pizza's into ovens in the van, and manages the cooking process while the van is driving the delivery route. That would be tricky to implement, but would give a human delivery driver tasks to do while the van is driving from place to place. And the pizza could plausibly be deliveried more freshly cooked...? Which would address one of the key issues of pizza delivery -- keeping the pizza hot while driving to the customer's residence.

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Aug. 29, 2017 – Domino's Pizza (NYSE: DPZ), the recognized world leader in pizza delivery, and Ford Motor Co. are launching an industry-first collaboration to understand the role that self-driving vehicles can play in pizza delivery.

As part of the testing, researchers from both companies will investigate customer reactions to interacting with a self-driving vehicle as a part of their delivery experience. This research is important as both companies begin to examine and understand customers’ perspectives around the future of food delivery with self-driving vehicles.

“As delivery experts, we’ve been watching the development of self-driving vehicles with great interest as we believe transportation is undergoing fundamental, dramatic change,” said Patrick Doyle, Domino’s president and CEO. “We pride ourselves on being technology leaders and are excited to help lead research into how self-driving vehicles may play a role in the future of pizza delivery. This is the first step in an ongoing process of testing that we plan to undertake with Ford.”

As Ford builds out its business enabled by self-driving vehicles, conducting research with companies, like Domino’s, will be crucial to ensuring that the technology is applied in ways that enhance the customer experience. With a plan to begin production of self-driving vehicles in 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.”

Over the next several weeks, randomly-selected Domino’s customers in Ann Arbor will have the opportunity to receive their delivery order from a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle, which will be manually-driven by a Ford safety engineer and staffed with researchers. Customers who agree to participate will be able to track the delivery vehicle through GPS using an upgraded version of Domino’s Tracker®. They will also receive text messages as the self-driving vehicle approaches that will guide them on how to retrieve their pizza using a unique code to unlock the Domino’s Heatwave Compartment™ inside the vehicle.

“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.”

Local partner Roush Enterprises fabricated the prototype vehicle’s pizza container, Domino’s Heatwave Compartment, based on its experience working with Domino’s on the DXP® delivery vehicle in 2015. Ford and Domino’s completed preliminary testing of the delivery process 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.

“I’m delighted that Ann Arbor continues to be at the forefront of autonomous-vehicle research,” said Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor. “While it’s pizza delivery today, my hope is that collaborations such as this will enable even more innovations tomorrow.”

About Domino’s Pizza®

Founded in 1960, Domino’s Pizza is the recognized world leader in pizza delivery, with a significant business in carryout pizza. It ranks among the world’s top public restaurant brands with a global enterprise of more than 14,200 stores in over 85 international markets. Domino’s had global retail sales of nearly $10.9 billion in 2016, with more than $5.3 billion in the U.S. and more than $5.5 billion internationally. In the second quarter of 2017, Domino’s had global retail sales of more than $2.7 billion, with over $1.3 billion in the U.S. and nearly $1.4 billion internationally. Its system is comprised of independent franchise owners who accounted for over 97% of Domino's stores as of the second quarter of 2017. Emphasis on technology innovation helped Domino’s reach an estimated $5.6 billion in global digital sales in 2016, and has produced several innovative ordering platforms, including Google Home, Facebook Messenger, Apple Watch, Amazon Echo, Twitter and text message using a pizza emoji. In late 2015, Domino’s announced the design and launch of the DXP®, a purpose-built pizza delivery vehicle, as well as Piece of the Pie Rewards™, its first digital customer loyalty program.

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About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 203,000 people worldwide. For more information regarding Ford, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company, please visit www.corporate.ford.com.​​

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