With the looming advent of the age of autonomous cars comes many questions.
Foremost among them: Can they deliver pizza?
That’s what Domino’s and Ford will try to find out in the coming weeks when they deploy a jointly-developed self-driving car into the streets of Ann Arbor, Mich., that’s equipped with a heated compartment hidden behind the passenger side rear window that rolls down and dishes out orders when a customer enters an access code into a tablet installed on the side of the vehicle.
While the prototype Ford Fusion Hybrid can drive itself, and has within the confines of a testing facility, it will be operated on public streets by an engineer, who will be accompanied by researchers studying how customers who opt into the program enjoy the experience and interact with the vehicle.
Are they comfortable retrieving their pizza and wings from the modern equivalent of Herbie the Love Bug? Is curbside drop-off OK, or should the car pull into the driveway so they don’t have to drag their lazy selves to the street? Behavioral scientists have much to learn.
Ford is planning to launch a fleet of driverless livery cars in 2019, but the company’s new CEO, Jim Hackett, recently told The Detroit News he sees many more opportunities for the technology than as a chauffeur.
Whether its people or pizza, the question remains: What do you give a robot for a tip?