Friday, 18 March 2016 08:51

Domino’s Pizza plans ‘world-first commercial autonomous delivery vehicle’


If Domino’s Pizza has its way, a ‘Domino’s Robotic Unit’ as pictured will ‘one day’ be delivering piping hot pizza to your door.

Ok, so the first thing to note here is that this development isn’t coming from Domino’s Pizza in the US, but Domino’s Pizza Enterprises from Australia, which owns the ‘master franchise rights to seven markets globally including Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Japan and Germany.’

In these markets, Domino’s Pizza Enterprises operates over 1900 stores, with the company clearly keen to be seen to be thinking well outside the box.

The company’s media release on the matter urges us all to “imagine a world in which your pizza is delivered by a driverless vehicle. A world in which you collect your piping hot Pepperoni Pizza and Garlic Bread from the compartment of a four wheeled robot named DRU. It might not be as far off as you first thought…”

Billed as a ‘ground-breaking, world-first initiative,’ the aforementioned ‘Domino’s Pizza Enterprises Limited (Domino’s)’ wants to introduce the prototype of its newest team member - DRU - or Domino’s Robotic Unit.

Issuing the caveat that DRU ‘won’t be taking to the Australian streets tomorrow,’ Domino’s said it ‘has revealed the compact autonomous delivery prototype to demonstrate just how serious they are about informing regulation in this space.’

The prototype has been purpose built with sleek, refined forms combined with a friendly persona and lighting to help customers identify and interact with it.

DRU sounds a but like Gru from the ‘Despicable Me’ movie series, with DRU looking a bit like a cross between Pixar’s Wall-E and a white, rather than yellow ‘Minion,’ as seen in the Despicable Me and Minions movies.

Domino’s explained that ‘DRU is a four wheeled vehicle with compartments built to keep the customer’s order piping hot and drinks cold whilst traveling on the footpath at a safe speed from the store to the customer’s door.’

DRU is currently able to navigate from a starting point to his destination, selecting the best path of travel. His on-board sensors enable him to perceive obstacles along the way and avoid them if necessary.

Domino’s Group CEO and Managing Director, Don Meij said that autonomous vehicles were set to open up new opportunities and create an impetus for innovation for Domino’s globally and in Australia.

“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.”

The Company confirmed the idea for DRU came from within their internal innovation sessions and has been developed within Domino’s own DLAB, a purpose built lab aimed at helping 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.”

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, Domino’s says DRU shows that the company ‘is actively engaged in the field and working with regulators on the future commercialisation of such technology.’

More below, please read on.

Domino’s confirmed that DRU has been involved in a number of customer deliveries in restricted streets identified by the Department under special permit and is operated in semi-autonomous mode to ensure he complies with current regulation. The 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,” continued Meij.

Meij confirmed that DRU will ‘one day fit into and enhance the existing team of delivery experts and when he does will be a welcomed 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,” Meij concluded.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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