19th March 2016
The world's first autonomous pizza delivery vehicle
Domino's Pizza Enterprises in Australia has unveiled the world's first autonomous pizza delivery vehicle.
Domino's Pizza Enterprises in Australia has revealed plans for an autonomous delivery vehicle, named the DRU (Domino's Robotic Unit). While still at the prototype stage, the company says it demonstrates just how serious they are about informing regulation in this space.
The machine is designed with sleek, refined forms combined with a friendly persona and lighting to help customers identify and interact with it. DRU is a four wheeled vehicle with compartments built to keep the customer's order piping hot and drinks cold, whilst travelling on the footpath at a safe speed from the store to the customer's door. It can select the best path of travel, with on-board sensors enabling it to perceive obstacles along the way and avoid them if necessary. The pizza is kept in a locked storage compartment, accessible through use of a security code sent to the customer's phone.
Domino's Group CEO and Managing Director, Don Meij said that autonomous vehicles would open up new opportunities and create an impetus for innovation both in Australia and around the world: "This highlights what can happen when disruptive thinking is fostered – it turns into a commercially viable and revolutionary product. It allows Domino's to explore new concepts and push the boundaries of what is possible for our customers. The DRU prototype is only the first step in our research and development as we continue to develop a range of innovations set to revolutionise the entire pizza ordering experience."
Meij confirmed the idea for DRU came from within the company's internal innovation sessions and has been developed in Domino's own DLAB, a purpose built lab to help budding entrepreneurs commercialise their ideas: "With a dedicated innovation lab, this project has been accelerated much faster than normal projects, without losing any of the quality control," he said.
DRU is powered by technology from Australian start-up company, Marathon Robotics.
"To launch DRU from concept through to development of a prototype highlights the extraordinary talent and resources available on our doorstep – both with excellent external talent such as Marathon and the knowledge and experience of our internal team at Domino's."
Domino's has been working with the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, along with other global partners to ensure the delivery droid concept meets relevant legislative requirements as it is trialled and tested.
"We are also working with Government agencies on the project to ensure all legal requirements are met. The agencies have been very supportive in the process to date and we're all excited about what this technology can lead to."
While autonomous drones and cars still need to pass a number of regulatory hurdles and challenges before they're delivering pizza on Australian streets, DRU shows that Domino's is actively engaged in the field and working with regulators on the future commercialisation of such technology. The machine has already been involved in a number of customer deliveries in restricted streets identified by the Department under a special permit and is currently operated in semi-autonomous mode. These early trials are a big step forward in commercialising fully autonomous delivery vehicles.
"With autonomous vehicles opening up possibilities for saving lives, saving time and moving goods more efficiently, we look forward to continuing our work in this field and leading the commercial trials so that our customers can reap the benefits," Mr Meij said. He confirmed that DRU will one day fit into and enhance the existing team of delivery personnel, and when he does will be a welcome addition to the team: "DRU is cheeky and endearing and we are confident that one day, he will become an integral part of the Domino's family. He's a road to the future and one that we are very excited about exploring further."
The global service robotics market is forecast to be worth $18 billion USD by 2020, according to analyst firm Research and Markets. This value will most likely be higher if DRU proves successful, influencing other fast-food suppliers to implement robotic technology in their delivery services.
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