Technology

Domino's is expanding its self-driving car test

The pizza chain and Ford are testing self-driving delivery vehicles in Miami.

Domino’s is testing delivery without the driver. Sort of.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based pizza chain on Tuesday said it started testing self-driving delivery in Miami, the “second round” of a test started in the company’s home market last year.

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.

In this test, Domino’s is using a Ford Fusion Hybrid that is actually manually driven but 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.”

Domino’s is one of the most technologically savvy restaurant companies in the world, making it little surprise that it would be at the forefront of self-driving vehicle testing.

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.

In the Miami test, customers who order online and volunteer for the test will have their pizzas delivered with one of the outfitted Fusions. Customers will be able to track the vehicle and will receive a text message when it approaches.

Domino’s will provide the customers with simple instructions on how to unlock the Domino’s Heatwave Compartment inside the vehicle. The compartment is unlocked with a PIN code.

“We’re a brand that believes in innovation, continuous improvement and rigorous testing to benefit our customers,” Vasconi said. “As the automotive world evolves toward self-driving vehicles, we hope to put ourselves in a leading position by bringing our customers the delivery option that best meets their needs, now and in the future.”

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