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Domino’s is testing autonomous vehicle delivery in Houston

More chains are testing robots and drones as delivery experiments continue.
Photograph courtesy of Domino's

Domino’s Pizza on Monday said that it plans to test autonomous vehicle delivery in Houston, as restaurant companies continue to explore the prospect of deploying devices to get food directly to consumers.

The company is working with robotics company Nuro to provide autonomous pizza delivery using a boxy unmanned vehicle called R2 later this year. Domino’s will use Nuro’s autonomous fleet to deliver to select Houston customers who place orders online later this year.

Nuro’s fleet has been running in the Houston area since March.

“We are always looking for new ways to innovate and evolve the delivery experience for our customers,” said Kevin Vasconi, Domino’s chief information officer, in a statement. He said the vehicles are designed to “optimize the food delivery experience.”

The test adds to a growing number of restaurant chains that are dipping their toes into the idea of machinated delivery using robots, driverless vehicles or drones.

Uber, for instance, said last week that it plans to begin testing food delivery by drone in San Diego, starting with McDonald’s and then expanding to other restaurant chains. Pizza Hut said in February that it is working with FedEx’s SameDay Bot.

Such strategies are growing as both restaurant chains and technology providers search for solutions to deliver food more quickly and efficiently—which could help hold down costs in the long run. 

To be sure, delivery providers have been testing robot delivery for some time now: Robots could be seen making orders in places such as Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. The market is tiny, but it is expected to grow fast. Chicago research firm MarketsandMarkets expects it to triple by 2024, when robot delivery will generate $34 million in sales.

Domino’s itself has been among the most aggressive restaurant chains when it comes to autonomous delivery. It was delivering pizzas in New Zealand with robots in 2016, for instance, and it has tested self-driving delivery vehicles.

In this instance, customers who order from one of the chain’s participating locations in Houston will have the option to use Nuro’s delivery vehicles. Once they opt in, they can track the vehicle through the Domino’s app.

They will be provided with a unique PIN to unlock the compartment and get their pizza.

“We see incredible opportunity in offering Nuro’s world-class autonomous technology to Domino’s customers,” said Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partner relations, in a statement.

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