With self-driving technology edging its way into the mainstream, it's not just taxi drivers, truckers, and hotel workers that face an uncertain future. Domino's new autonomous robot-vehicle means pizza delivery guys and gals could also soon be a thing of the past.
Unveiled on Thursday in Brisbane, Australia, the "Domino's Robotic Unit," or DRU for short, has been in development for the last eight months. The pizza company teamed up with Aussie startup Marathon Robotics to build the delivery droid, which, besides transporting pizza and drinks (in separate hot and cold compartments), can also accept payments and chat with customers.
The $22,000 four-wheeled bot, which is similar in some ways to this effort from the co-founders of Skype, uses GPS and lasers to get around, and can reach speeds of 12 mph (18 kmh). DRU also comes fitted with an array of IP cameras to deter hungry thieves and keep vandals (and unscrupulous rivals?) at bay.
The self-driving delivery vehicle rolls along sidewalks and bicycle paths to reach an address. To gain access to the machine's tasty delights, the customer simply has to enter the passcode provided by staff when the order was made.
According to Lifehacker, DRU has been successfully tested on specially designated Brisbane streets after the Queensland Department of Transport green-lighted trials for the technology.
However, there's still plenty of work to be done before the robot starts nabbing the jobs of human delivery workers. "It's a genuinely autonomous robot today, but some of the technology on the AI side still has to lift," said Don Meij, head of Domino's Australia. "He's able to stop and sense and won't hit things, but he needs to be more foolproof. For example, he's not currently aware of how big he is on top which can be a problem when he spins." We're not sure why DRU has to spin, but it's an issue that clearly needs sorting out.
Despite the challenges, Meij said with a straight face that DRU could be trundling to an address near you (if you happen to live in Brisbane) within the next two years.
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