Pizza lovers in Houston have an entirely new delivery option the next time cravings strike: delivery by robot vehicle.
Domino’s is piloting a new autonomous delivery service in the Texas city using self-driving delivery company Nuro’s R2, a completely autonomous, occupantless on-road delivery vehicle approved by the US Department of Transportation.
Select customers who place a prepaid website order from a Domino’s store in Houston’s Woodland Heights can choose to have their order delivered by R2, and they’ll then receive text alerts updating them on R2′s location. They can also track the vehicle via GPS on their order confirmation page. Once R2 arrives, customers will be prompted to enter a unique PIN on the bot’s touchscreen, which will signal R2 to open and deliver their order.
“We’re excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino’s customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston,” said Dennis Maloney, Domino’s senior vice president and chief innovation officer. “There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations.”
The partnership is the latest in a string of retail entrants to the autonomous delivery space. In November, Walmart announced a partnership with Cruise, a self-driving car company that operates a fleet of all-electric vehicles, to deliver contactless orders to customers in Scottsdale, Az. The retail giant also announced a similar Houston-based partnership with Nuro for autonomous grocery delivery in December 2019.
Experts agree that autonomous technology has the potential to completely reshape brick-and-mortar and e-commerce dynamics.
“Look for a surge in such small-package delivery services—particularly from retailers who have the resources to buy a fleet of driverless cars or can sign on with companies that can deploy large fleets for hire—whether that’s Uber, Lyft, UPS or some company not yet in existence,” a NPD report forecast last year.
A potential downside for retailers, of course, is that increased adoption of contactless and autonomous shopping is that fewer people will visit physical stores. But NPD notes that retailers could incentivize visits by offering deep discounts for in-person visits or create an otherwise engaging experience for customers.
The technology is already being adopted by logistics companies, many of which are already piloting driverless vehicles inside massive warehouses, port facilities and intermodal yards.
“I think that, given the spotlight that the pandemic has put on the fragile nature of our global supply chain, automation and robotics will gain a lot of attention,” Rich Thompson, international director, supply chain and logistics at JLL, told GlobeSt.com in an earlier interview. “And for anyone interested in those investments, it will just accelerate that interest.”