Saturday 20 January 2018

Domino's preps robot pizza delivery

One of the self-driving Domino's delivery robots, which will begin taking customers pizza in Germany and the Netherlands
One of the self-driving Domino's delivery robots, which will begin taking customers pizza in Germany and the Netherlands

Jeremy Kahn

Starship Technologies, the London-based company that has created six-wheeled self-driving delivery robots, will begin taking customers Domino's pizzas in Germany and the Netherlands

Starship, launched in July 2014 by two former Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, will whisk pizzas to customers' doors if they live within a one-mile radius of certain Domino's pizza shops in "select German and Dutch cities,".

Domino's Pizza Enterprises, the world's largest franchise licence owner of Domino's Pizza, with operations in markets across Asia and Europe, has formed a group called Domino's Robotic Unit to oversee the project.

Domino's has tested ground-based autonomous vehicles for pizza delivery in Australia and New Zealand in 2016. In November it also delivered a pizza by drone in New Zealand.

"With our growth plans over the next five to 10 years, we simply won't have enough delivery drivers if we do not look to add to our fleet through initiatives such as this," Domino's Pizza Enterprises CEO Don Meij said in a statement.

Starship's battery-powered robot is designed to operate autonomously on pavements, not roads, and has a maximum speed of four miles an hour carrying loads up to nine kilograms.

Its cargo hold, which customers unlock with a code sent to their mobile phones, is insulated and the pizzas will also be placed inside a special hot or cold bag similar to the ones used for motorcycle-based deliveries.

"Dependent on size, we can carry up to eight pizzas on a delivery or a variety of combinations of pizzas, sides and cold drinks or dessert products," the company said.

Starship is already delivering food orders for Just Eat in London, in the upmarket neighborhood of Greenwich. It also has partnerships for food, grocery and parcel deliveries with Postmates, DoorDash, Hermes Parcel Delivery Service, Swiss Post and Wolt in the US, UK, Germany, Switzerland and Estonia.

Mercedes-Benz Vans invested $17.2m (€159m) in Starship in January. Mercedes-Benz has created prototype vans that could serve as a kind of "mothership" or logistics hub for a small fleet of autonomous pavement drones like Starship's. These vans could one day be self-driving too.

Domino's previously announced it was teaming up with Microsoft to create a bot that helps users order pizza. You can ask the Domino's Skype bot to "order me a large pizza" and it will send the request to your shop.

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