New England University Transportation Center

Tech Transfer


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Ford's Robocar Delivers Pizza in the Name of Science

Aug 30, 2017

Ford is putting one of its autonomous vehicles to good use: delivering pizza in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the next few weeks, randomly selected Domino's customers will get the option to have their pie brought over by a modified Ford Fusion Hybrid, complete with the roof mounted whirring “coffee can” sensors and plenty of “research vehicle” stickers.

No doubt it's a clever marketing stunt for both companies, but it's also a chance to answer a vital question that gets little attention compared to the technical challenge of autonomy: how will humans interact with driverless cars? The promise of the technology is huge—fewer crashes, less congestion, more convenience—but only if people actually want the things in their lives.

“Society is, in essence, completely unprepared for the complexities of the transformative change that is ahead in the automotive, mobility space,” says Bryan Reimer, who studies autonomous vehicles and human factors for the New England University Transportation Center. “Does the pizza delivery man need to be there? That’s just one of the many hundreds of questions we don’t know.”