Domino’s, one of most technology-friendly companies, is testing delivery with self-driving cars. Kind of.
The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based pizza chain stated it started testing self-driving delivery in Miami. Domino’s is working alongside the automaker Ford on the test. The company hopes the Miami market will provide a good test of the service and the technology in a larger, urban setting.
It is important to note that in this test, Domino’s is using a Ford Fusion Hybrid that is actually being driven by a person but the vehicle is outfitted to look like a self-driving vehicle.
The reason: to enable Domino’s to test the “last 50 feet of the customer experience between the front door and the car,” Kevin Vasconi, Domino’s chief information officer, said in a statement.
“While we work to refine that interaction, we also need to understand how operating this type of delivery in a more densely populated city will impact the customer experience and the specific challenges it might present,” Vasconi said.
He also said that “there are customers who are interested in this as a delivery option.”
It has been more than a month after a self-driving Uber struck and killed a pedestrian crossing the street in Arizona, it’s still not clear what sort of failure might explain the crash—or how to prevent it happening again.
Are Domino’s and other companies like it, putting too much faith behind self-driving cars?
The crash and its inconclusive aftermath reflect poorly on a newborn industry predicated on the idea that letting computers take the wheel can save lives, ease congestion, and make travel more pleasant.
In defense of the technology, the industry presents the same sobering facts; every year, 40,000 people die on American roads. Worldwide, it’s about 1.25 million. Millions more are left with serious injuries. Robot drivers, who don’t get tired, distracted, or drunk, could stop the epidemic.
For delivery chains, self-driving cars hold some long-term promise, given that it can be difficult to find drivers, especially with so many third-party services providing delivery. The service also drives up insurance costs.
Knocked onto its heels by the Uber crash and the death of a Tesla driver using Autopilot a week later, the robo-car industry needs a win.
Maybe delivering food is that ‘needed win.’
The food and self-driving industry and the public are watching this test closely. But it would be wise for all parties and the public to lower expectations of this technology taking over the roadways. The accidents that happened pointed a scary light that even bad things can happen with self-driving cars.