When it comes to autonomous delivery vehicles, Amazon may be in for some competition. Domino’s Pizza is trying out its own drone delivery vehicle in New Zealand—but it’s aiming a little lower than Amazon, and keeping its feet firmly on the ground. Or, at least, its wheels.
Ars Technica reports that the DRU (“Domino’s Robotic Unit”) robotic pizza rover uses technology from an Australian military contractor that makes autonomous, obstacle-avoiding robots. It can carry and keep warm up to 10 pizzas per robot (with a separate refrigerated section for keeping drinks cold), and has a delivery range of 20 kilometers (about 12.4 miles) from the store before needing a recharge. It can travel on both roads and walking paths, and must be unlocked by an access code when it reaches its destination. The trial is limited so far, but Domino’s is working with the New Zealand government to broaden it.
As delivery vehicle ideas go, it’s certainly audacious. It does manage to avoid the biggest problem with aerial drone deliveries like Amazon plans—getting the FAA to authorize them—and it can also carry a lot more cargo than a flying drone could. If Amazon were to try out such a vehicle, it could augment its Prime Now delivery service and not have to pay so many drivers.
But on the other hand, given that DRU trundles along the ground, it could be vulnerable to interception and robbery, or at least vandalism. It might work all right in a nice place like New Zealand, but I can’t help suspecting that they’d need to build tasers into it if they planned to use it in America. (Or maybe flamethrowers, like that South African anti-carjacking system.) I doubt that most pizza delivery drivers need to worry about losing their jobs just yet.
It’s too bad Domino’s doesn’t use the Noid ad campaign anymore. It could prompt a whole new series of Coyote-and-Roadrunner style antics as the Noid keeps trying to waylay the DRU and the DRU just trundles right over him.