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Driverless pizza delivery: Ford gets a slice of the action

"I'll have a large pepperoni pizza - can i get that with no driver please?" (Photo: Ford)

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Stephan Giesler
Stephan Giesler

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Hello, automated driving community! Driverless pizza delivery with a twist, Daimler playing a very Smart hand and last but not least, an upcoming change at 2025AD that puts YOU at the center: we bring you this week’s key stories from the world of automated driving!

Pizza delivery drivers, we salute you. So often the bearers of eight slices of cheesy perfection right to our doorsteps when it’s most needed. Where would we be without you?

That’s exactly the question that Ford and Domino’s have teamed up to answer. The Dearborne-based automaker recently announced that it and the world leader in pizza delivery are about to embark on joint research into self-driving delivery cars. Although the cars won’t actually be driverless.

But that’s ok. The point of the industry-first collaboration is not to test the cars per se. Rather, the researchers want to judge the consumers’ reaction when they have to interact with a vehicle via screens and not a human in order to get their pizza from the car to their lap. That’s what the randomly selected Domino’s customers in Ann Arbor, Michigan will have the chance to do in the coming weeks.

“We’re interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery,” said Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA. “…how will customers react to coming outside to get their food? We need to make sure the interface is clear and simple...”

This venture demonstrates yet another forward-thinking move by Ford – whose Vice President of Ford Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification, Sherif Marakby, told The Verge: “The human aspect is the most significant piece here. We know we can create technology, but it has to be based on the human element of how we’re using the Autonomous Vehicles.”

Well said. And with automated driving set to open the doors to a plethora of potential new business models, research such as this is key to ensuring their success. Cast your mind back to a similar story a couple of weeks ago, when Virginia Tech tested human reactions to driverless vehicles. Well, just as we (and others) predicted at CES at the beginning of the year, it seems that the human being is moving closer to the center of attention. And at the end of the day the movement of humans is what it’s all about: in a safe and environmentally-friendly way.

Smart move: Is Daimler about to reveal a full house?

This week saw a sneak preview of one of many concept cars that will be unveiled as the curtain lifts on the IAA 2017 in Frankfurt: Daimler’s Smart Vision EQ Fortwo concept. In the words of Daimler Smart Automobile CEO Annette Winkler, it is a “vision of future urban mobility; it is the most radical car sharing concept car of all: fully autonomous, with maximum communication capabilities, friendly, comprehensively personalizable and, of course, electric." It does look impressive. But so what? You might ask. Aren’t most concept cars like that?

Yes. But the interesting thing is that Daimler has chosen to focus on the car-sharing use case for this particular concept – as if to say “I’ve got a hand in this game”. And indeed it does. Daimler already runs its own Car2Go service which is present in many major cities. With its 2.6 million customers, if the future of mobility really does lie in autonomous car-sharing, then Daimler’s hand looks strong.

But when you think about it, Daimler holds strong hands in all of the automated driving games, not just car sharing. Take commercial trucks for example – the stars of last year’s commercial IAA. There, it has the Future Truck. In driverless public transport it has the Future Bus and in passenger cars it has arguably the most luxurious limousine with Level 2 automation around: the E-Class. It holds a full house if you will – and by our reckoning is the only player to do so.

Autonomous ride-sharing: a smart move from Daimler. (Photo: Daimler)

2025AD: The Automated Driving Community

community: noun |com·mu·ni·ty | \kə-ˈmyü-nə-tē\: the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.

We end this week’s roundup with the news that we have changed our slogan from “The year of automated driving” to “The automated driving community”.

We want to focus on community because we truly believe that is what we are. Over the 17 months that the platform has been active, one thing has become clear: We are all collectively involved in and fascinated by something that will change the world as we know it. We might be fascinated by automated driving because we think it’s the salvation of the planet or because we think it’s the worst idea that man has ever come up with. But no matter what your views, I’m sure most of us would agree that it’s going to be a dramatic game changer for our societies. It moves all of us and brings us together. We want to harness that sense of community spirit and use it as the impetus for change.

Yes, the slogan change is a small act. You adding a comment is a small act; responding to another comment is a small act; discussing with friends is a small act. But as Howard Zinn famously said, small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.

So long, drive safely (until cars are driverless),                         

Stephan Giesler

Editor-in-Chief, 2025AD

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