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Ford, Domino's partner for self-driving pizza delivery

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, 12:12 p.m.

The robots are coming.

And this time they're bringing pizza.

Ford and Domino's are teaming up to create a world where robots will deliver our pizzas.

The two companies announced Tuesday that randomly selected Domino's customers in Ann Arbor, Mich., will have the option of having a self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid show up with their order.

Both companies want to see how customers react to autonomous delivery. Russell Weiner, president of Domino's USA, said robo-pizza delivery could be the company's future.

“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,” Weiner said.

Pizza has long been a focus of robotics and autonomy projects. An autonomous pizza delivery Prius was an early project of Anthony Levandowski, who once worked on self-driving projects for Google and Uber before being sued by Google and fired by Uber. Other companies have debuted pizza making-robots. The Silicon Valley start-up Zume Pizza has almost fully automated the pizza process .

The Ford Fusions will have self-driving capabilities but will be operated by a safety engineer and staffed with researchers. When the car approaches its delivery destination, the customer will receive a text message with instructions on how to retrieve the order from inside the car.

“The initial focus of our research together is understanding the last 50 feet of the delivery experience. What that means is we will be looking at how customers respond to this new experience, which will require them to interact with the self-driving car instead of a delivery person  —  walking out to the vehicle instead of just walking to answer their front door,” Sherif Marakby, Ford's vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification, wrote Tuesday in a post on Medium .

“Understanding how automation will change the customer experience is a key part of how we're building our future self-driving vehicle business because we want to apply the technology in ways that enhance people's lives. To achieve this, we will partner with companies that specialize in the movement of people and goods.”

Ford announced in February that it would invest $1 billion in Pittsburgh-based Argo AI to help the auto giant develop autonomous vehicles. Argo has offices in Pittsburgh's Strip District, Dearborn, Mich., and Silicon Valley.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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