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An unconventional partnership could provide new insight into the use of autonomous vehicles for delivery.  

Ford is teaming up with Domino’s to test out pizza delivery with a fleet of self-driving cars in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The goal of this experiment for both companies is to gain a new understanding of how customers view food delivery by these futuristic cars.

Domino’s will randomly select customers in Ann Arbor over the next several weeks who will receive their order from a Ford Fusion Autonomous Research Vehicle, which will, for now, be manually driven by a Ford safety engineer and staffed with researchers. The main motive for this collaboration is to examine how customers react to stepping out of their homes and walking to the car to fetch their pizza from a locked warming compartment, instead of interacting with a delivery driver.

Users who agree to participate in this venture will be able to use a GPS to track the car, and will also receive text messages providing them with directions about how to retrieve their meal.

“We’re interested to learn what people think about this type of delivery,” said Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA, in a statement. “The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience. For instance, how will customers react to coming outside to get their food? We need to make sure the interface is clear and simple. We need to understand if a customer’s experience is different if the car is parked in the driveway versus next to the curb. All of our testing research is focused on our goal to someday make deliveries with self-driving vehicles as seamless and customer-friendly as possible.”

Other unique delivery methods being tested by Domino’s include a system of drones that would deliver pizzas to customers within a one mile radius of Domino’s locations in certain German and Dutch cities.

Ford will benefit from this partnership because data from this research could assist in refining the customer experience for future technology built into its self-driving cars.

“As we increase our understanding of the business opportunity for self-driving vehicles to support the movement of people and goods, we’re pleased to have Domino’s join us in this important part of the development process,” said Ford’s vice president of Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Sherif Marakby. “As a company focused on the customer experience, Domino’s shares our vision for a future enabled by smart vehicles in a smart environment that enhance people’s lives.”

Ford plans on starting production of self-driving cars by 2021. 

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