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Domino's, Ford to Test Self-Driving Pizza Delivery

Ford and Domino's create a self-driving pizza delivery carDomino’s Pizza [NYSE:DPZ] and Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] announced this morning that the two firms are working together to pioneer a self-driving automobile that delivers pizza. Over the next few weeks, a few randomly-selected pizza customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan will receive Domino’s delivery orders from a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle.

The key is not the car, nor the technology. It already largely exists. It is about the customer. Researchers from both firms will research the customers’ reaction and perspectives on having their food delivered by a robotic car.

"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.

Ford plans to manufacture self-driving vehicles by 2021. The car makers’ leaders want to explore how companies might use the technology as well as their customers’ perceptions.

"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.

Ann Arbor customers of Domino’s, which has 14,200 outlets in over 85 international markets, should know not to panic when they see the robot car driving to their location. A Ford safety engineer and staff will be sitting inside the car. Customers will receive a text message as the automated car arrives with instructions on how to retrieve their pizza using an unlocking code to a heated compartment where it is stored.

"The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience,” said Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA. “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."

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Don Sniegowski is editor of Blue MauMau, the daily news journal for franchise & small business owners. Call him at +1 (270) 321-1268, tweet @bluemaumau or email don@bluemaumau.org.