Self-driving cars, once strictly the domain of science fiction, are already being commercialized. And the commercial opportunities extend far beyond the transport of people, as long-haul cargo, your latest Amazon purchase, or even a humble pizza will most likely in the not too distant future be shuttled around by automated means.
Yes, even pizza. It turns out Ford wasn’t kidding when it announced last summer that it would be teaming up with Domino’s to trial a self-driving pizza delivery service, because the automaker on Wednesday said its self-driving cars are already on the streets of Miami and Miami Beach delivering pizzas, and more cities are to follow.
Randomly selected customers are offered the chance to have their pizzas delivered by one of the cars, and if they choose to participate they’ll receive text-message instructions as the car approaches on how to retrieve their pizza pie. A unique code will unlock the storage compartment, which is heated so that the pizza stays warm. One caveat is that the pizza is no longer brought to your door. Someone has to go out and fetch it. However, Ford sees the customer benefiting from no longer having to tip the delivery person.
As mentioned, the pizza delivery service is already up and running. Ford is finalizing plans to launch a similar service with on-demand delivery service Postmates starting next month, and lessons learned will be used to tailor and fine-tune future services.
An engineer is still behind the wheel at all times to monitor progress and take over in case of an emergency, as Ford is still developing its self-driving technology, which the automaker hopes to have ready for a purpose-built self-driving car devoid of a steering wheel and pedals launching in 2021. Ford is developing the self-driving technology with Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based company specializing in robotics, computer science, and artificial intelligence.