Skip to Content

Apparently, People Say “Thank You” to Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Vehicles

And other lessons from Ford’s experiment with autonomous cars.
January 10, 2018
Ford Motor Company

You wouldn’t think Jim Farley would spend a lot of time thinking about pizza delivery, given his title as Ford’s executive vice president and president of global markets. But Farley, who oversees the business strategy for the car maker’s autonomous-vehicle unit, believes that delivering things such as pizza will be a key application for self-driving cars in the future, and he want to learn how people behave in such a transaction.

Last summer, Ford worked with Domino’s Pizza on a test in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it delivered pizza to randomly chosen customers in a self-driving Ford Fusion hybrid. An operator was inside the car, and a regular human-driven car trailed behind, videotaping the drive. Customers had to approach the car and enter a number on a touch screen on the side of the vehicle to get their pizza.

Speaking at CES, the annual consumer electronics show, in Las Vegas this week, Farley acknowledged that the idea sounds silly, “but we learned so freaking much,” he said.

Apparently, most people say “thank you” to the car after getting their pizza. (“We probably want to have some UX around that, because that’s cool. It’s very human,” Farley said.) Though customers weren’t comfortable tapping in the last four digits of their credit card number as a code to open a window so they could grab their pizza, they were fine using the last four digits of their phone number.

In the summer, most people walked out to the car barefoot. “That sounds really weird, but that has a big impact on where we put the vehicle,” Farley said. “They don’t want to step on the street; there’s glass, there’s all sorts of stuff.”

All that will help Ford shape how the company builds an autonomous vehicle for delivering products. “We have to understand what the UX is on the outside of the vehicle,” he said. “Should it be a key pad? Should it be a voice assist?”

The company hopes to learn more—both about how customers interact with the cars and about how it should set up the interior of delivery-centric vehicles—in a test with delivery service Postmates, which will get started by the end of March in an as-yet-unnamed city.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.