Date:19 March 2016
Author:Gian Volpicelli (UK)
Battery-powered pizzabot has 12-mile range; customers access pizza with a code.
Pizza delivery boys and girls, beware! Pizza giant Domino’s has unveiled an autonomous pizza delivery robot that is being trialled in New Zealand.
On Friday the company unveiled the Domino’s Robotic Unit (DRU), and announced that the bot had already carried out its first successful pizza delivery on March 8. “DRU is an autonomous delivery vehicle and is set to take the world by storm,” the company wrote in a statement on its website.
The vehicle’s development started in 2015 and was pushed towards commercialisation by Domino’s Australia-based skunkworks DLab. According to a promotional video (embedded below), DRU uses software developed by the Australian military contractor Marathon, which manufactures autonomous robots with obstacle-avoidance capabilities.
This feature has been incorporated in DRU, which according to Domino’s can dodge hurdles thanks using on-board sensors. The autonomous four-wheeler is about one metre tall and contains two different compartments to keep beverages cool and pizzas (up to ten per robot) hot, which customers can unlock with an order-specific code. It can carry out a delivery within 20 kilometres from the store before needing a battery charge, and it is designed to move on both footpaths and roads
It is not really clear how the cute-looking automaton would defend its precious cargo from glutton thieves or random troublemakers, but the company said in Facebook posts that it “will be taking every precaution necessary to ensure he is safe including surveillance and security etc.”
What is known is that Domino’s is currently working with New Zealand’s authorities to kickstart larger-scale DRU trials in the country. While there are still no details regarding timing and locations, the Kiwi government seems to be on board with the idea.
“This is an exciting opportunity for New Zealand… over the last 12 months I’ve been actively and aggressively promoting New Zealand as a test bed for new transport technology trials,” said the country’s transport minister Simon Bridges, according to the AFP. The country is currently working on tweaking its autonomous vehicle regulations.
Domino’s has a chequered reputation when it comes to big robot-related announcements: last year, the company unveiled a decidedly less-real-looking robot pizza deliverer, only to announce that the whole thing was an April’s Fool prank.
Still, the fast food giant seems to mean business with the DRU, and the vehicle itself looks more convincing. In fact, the DRU is rather similar to another autonomous delivery device currently being trialled in Greenwich, London by Starship Technologies.
This post originated on Ars Technica UK