In the US state of Michigan, Ford and Domino's Pizza are about to launch a new initiative that will see some of the fast-food giant’s deliveries carried out by driverless vehicles designed by the former. The test will enable the partners both to evaluate customer satisfaction levels with this particular automatic service, and to better understand their needs with a view to offering autonomous vehicles in the future.
These two household names in the USA have come together for this particular experiment which will give the pizza delivery giant an opportunity to analyse its customers reaction to this new kind of service, while the automotive leader can test its autonomous Fusion Hybrid in genuine driving conditions, with Ford looking to have that particular vehicle on the market in the coming years.
Practical testing in parallel with technological research
"We are carrying out demographic research in parallel with the development of the technology itself," said Sherif Marakby, vice-president, autonomous vehicles and electrification at Ford to TechCrunch. "It will enable us to learn things on a daily basis that we weren’t anticipating. And we want to have the opportunity, in terms of timing, to incorporate these changes into our vehicles or their interface so that we can improve our interactions with the consumer."
Test participants chosen at random
In concrete terms, certain customers who have placed an order with Domino’s Pizza will be selected at random and will have the chance to choose delivery by self-driving car. Those who do so will be given a one-off randomly generated code. They will then get a message telling them that their order has arrived, at which point they can use the code to unlock the container installed in the driverless vehicle, which will be parked outside their address. The container has been specially designed by Domino’s to keep food hot for as long as possible.
A driver ready to intervene if necessary
Initially, the car used for the delivery will not be totally autonomous. One of the aims of this life-size test is to evaluate the security of the system, so there will be an actual person behind the wheel of the Ford Fusion who can intervene and take control of the car should there be any malfunction.
"In general, in the automotive sector, you know your client base, and you tailor offers that correspond to their profile," Marakby said of this innovative partnership. "But in this particular case, there are still things we need to learn, and we are working with partners who understand consumers, so that we can establish what we need to do with our models."
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