Aussies take their pizza very seriously. That’s clear when you watch the introductory video for “THE WORLD’S FIRST AUTONOMOUS PIZZA DELIVERY ROBOT!” which was released in March 2016 by Domino’s in Australia. Domino’s Robotic Unit (“DRU”) is “an audacious idea, incubated in our purpose-built innovation space, D-Lab; using a base unit sourced from the military.” This is a race against the other pizza-delivering competitors, and coming in second is not an option. “The journey has just begun! DRU is leading us into the future!” Crikey!
DRU has already been delivering pizza in Brisbane at a top speed of just under 12 mph. “We have a relentless passion to push the boundaries of what’s possible with pizza delivery,” said Michael Gillespie, chief digital officer for Domino’s in Australia. “As we get further, it’s not hard to believe that we might have a store with a couple of [robots] that are doing deliveries.” So far Domino’s has only one DRU. The prototype was developed with an Australian start-up, Marathon Robotics.
Powered by an electric motor that lasts about 12 miles, DRU travels along the city’s many bike paths and sidewalks, using GPS to find the fastest, most efficient route. Gillespie pointed to its ability to circumvent heavy traffic as a key advantage over vehicles. It is not being used on roadways, and legal approval is not yet forthcoming.
“We need to work with government to change regulations,” Gillespie said. “Working with them is hopefully going to push new frontiers and new boundaries that people would’ve thought were possible for many years to come.”
Gillespie is excited with results of tests. DRU sends a text message to alert customers when it has arrived, waits on the sidewalk, and then engages with the customer. A compartment pops open, holding what Domino’s describes as an average order of pizza, sides, and drinks.
There are no plans to replace all other forms of delivery with DRU in the near future. The company views the robot as a complement to its traditional car and bicycle delivery methods. Asked whether delivery drivers should be concerned about their jobs, Gillespie said DRU will actually create new jobs for employees, including maintaining a fleet of the delivery vehicles, and loading pizzas into DRU.
In November 2015, a British start-up released a self-driving robotic cart that uses sidewalks to make deliveries. The robotic carts are an example of the rise of autonomous vehicles, which experts say will be purpose-designed, and so won’t closely resemble traditional cars. Domino’s is determined to lead that trend.
You can watch Domino’s Robotic Unit in action at www.youtube.com/watch?v=rb0nxQyv7RU.