In less than a year, Domino’s has turned an April Fools’ joke for driverless pizza delivery vehicles into an apparently serious concept.
This time last year, the company’s British operations unveiled the Domi-No-Driver, a futuristic autonomous concept bike with four built-in lockers to hold pizza.
Alas it was a fake, but clearly someone at the pizza company thought it was a good idea, and spent a year modifying and slightly shrinking it to create the Domino’s Robotic Unit (DRU).
Before you get too excited about autonomous vehicle pizza delivery, it seems this is still very much conceptual with no regulatory clearances achieved.
However, Domino’s want people to know “just how serious we are about informing regulation in this space”.
Rather than drive on roads like the April Fools prototype, it’s intended DRU will travel “at a safe speed” on the footpath. It has some form of obstacle detection technology to aid its journey.
DRU is powered by technology from Australian start-up company, Marathon Robotics.
The idea is originally said to have come from “internal innovation sessions”.
Domino’s said that DRU’s development was aided by DLAB, a new innovation facility the company recently opened in Australia.
Domino’s said it has been working with the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads “to ensure the delivery droid concept meets relevant legislative requirements as it is trialled and tested.”
Domino’s group CEO and managing director Don Meij said the DRU had already “been involved in a number of customer deliveries in restricted streets” in Queensland.
These tests occurred “under special permit” and with the DRU in “semi-autonomous mode to ensure he complies with current regulation.”
Domino’s is also doing similar work in New Zealand where the Government there hopes to secure rights to trial the technology on footpaths there.
“DRU is an early prototype, but the fact that New Zealand is being considered as a test site shows we have the right settings to attract innovation,” NZ transport minister Simon Bridges said.
“Last year we put in place a new world-class framework for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), we’ve reviewed the laws for driverless vehicles and we are currently reviewing Small Passenger Services settings to put New Zealand at the forefront of transport innovation.
“If successful, this driverless vehicle trial could open the door to many more commercial opportunities.”
Meij said the agencies Domino’s had worked with so far “have been very supportive in the process to date and we’re all excited about what this technology can lead to.”
Aside from autonomous ground vehicles, Domino's has also previously looked at the possibility of quadcopter delivery, as also trialled by the likes of Amazon.