Pizza delivery brings autonomous vehicles to the masses.
The robots are coming, and they're bringing pizza. Domino's launches a real-world test in the Woodland Heights neighborhood in Houston, Texas, for Nuro R2 robots to deliver food. The autonomous bots will travel on public roads and will have to negotiate traffic on the way to their destination.
To take part, customers have to place a prepaid order on Domino's website from the restaurant's Woodland Heights location and opt for the Nuro R2 to perform the delivery. The company sends a text message with a PIN and the ability to track the robot's location. When the bot reaches the destination, the buyer enters the number to unlock the door and grab the pizza.
Gallery: Domino's Nuro R2 Delivery Robot
"There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations," Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, said about the program.
The Nuro R2 is the first autonomous, occupant-less on-road vehicle to receive approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It does not travel on sidewalks or bike lanes. As of December 2020, the robot also has a permit to operate on public roads in California.
The vehicle has a top speed of 25 miles per hour (40 kilometers per hour). It has a 31-kilowatt-hour battery. The R2 has a payload of 419 pounds (190 kilograms). The sensor suite includes 360-degree overlapping cameras, thermal imaging camera, LiDAR, short- and long-range radar, ultrasonics, and a microphone for detecting emergency vehicle sirens.
Domino's has been pursuing autonomous pizza deliveries for a few years. In 2017, it held a test in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where an experimental, self-driving Ford Fusion carried food. The company later expanded the evaluation to Miami, Florida.
While it's not quite as cutting-edge as a robot carrying pizzas, Domino's also developed an in-car app for ordering a pie. Although, there doesn't seem to be much reason to use this method when most people would have a smartphone on hand.