Domino's Is Launching A Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Robot. No Really

The future is pizza. Last night, Domino's Australia unveiled DRU — the world's first commercial autonomous delivery vehicle. This isn't a fictional marketing campaign; it's a bona fide robot that can do everything from navigate fences to talk to customers. We were given a sneak peak of the first prototype in Brisbane, which will be the testing ground for this cutting-edge delivery system. Here's everything you need to know!

This is an April Fools gag, right?

Wrong. Domino’s has been secretly working on this project for the past eight months at its local innovation lab. Dubbed DRU (Domino's Robotic Unit), it is an autonomous delivery vehicle built in collaboration with Marathon Robotics; an Australian technology startup that specialises in robotic targets for live-fire army training. It's essentially a $30k military-grade robot refitted for pizza delivery.

How does it work?

The DRU unit is fully autonomous and can currently reach speeds of up to 20 kilometres an hour. This makes it suitable for footpaths, trails, bike paths and bridges — but not roads or highways. It will therefore initially be limited to neighborhood deliveries.

DRU uses a LIDAR sensory system that allows the unit to detect obstacles in its path and change its route accordingly. It measures objects and distance by illuminating them with a laser light. Each unit also comes equipped with traditional sensors that detect obstructions at close range, just like a robot vacuum cleaner.

It weighs approximately 190kg and has a maximum height of 1185mm (922mm with the compartment closed.) The body is constructed of ABS and urethane plastics, the lenses are made using PMMA (acrylic) plastics and the internal chassis is finished using aluminium and mild steel. It is water tight and weather proof.

When a customer orders a pizza, the DRU unit will travel unassisted to their address using the aforementioned sensors and GPS tracking technology powered by Google Maps. While the unit is capable of navigating fence lines and driveways, customers will be required to complete their orders on the kerb.

Entering a unique mobile phone code will activate the robot's locked storage compartments which contain the customer's goodies (the robot cheerfully chats you through the process throughout). There are separate heated and chilled compartments for hot foods, drinks and desserts. To ensure the system meets food service hygiene requirements, both compartments will be removable for cleaning and disinfecting purposes.

The current prototype has a battery capacity of 20km which is well within Domino's average delivery radius of 3-5km. However, it's only capable of delivering an "average size" pizza order — in other words, your future parties will continue receiving boring human deliveries. Boo!

Is it safe?

According to Domino's CEO Don Meij, DRU is safer than human drivers. "One of our inspirations for DRU is safety — it seems pretty crazy to us that we use one-and-a-half tonne vehicles to deliver a few hundred grams of pizza," Meij explained. When you remove all that fast moving steel and potential for human error, the number of delivery-based injuries should actually go down.

Domino’s has been conducting field tests with DRU in a number of restricted streets approved under special permit by the Queensland Department of Transport. These "semi-autonomous" delivery trials complied with current road regulations and proved to be successful.

When will it be on the roads?

According to Domino's, DRU will be making appearances in stores within the next six months. However, it will take approximately two years before units are ready for our roads. "It's a genuinely autonomous robot today, but some of the technology on the AI side still has to lift," Meij explained.

"He's able to stop and sense and won't hit things, but [it] needs to be more foolproof. For example, he's not currently aware of how big he is on top which can be a problem when he spins."

In addition, there are various legislative restrictions that need to be overcome. Simply put, Australian road rules are exceptionally tough to navigate: it's exceedingly difficult to get a bike helmet approved over here, much less a self-driving robot.

Nevertheless, Meij is confident that state governments will be on board within the next couple of years. The company is currently working with the Queensland Department of Transport of Main Roads (TMR) to identify how to safely allow DRU to utilise roads and footpaths.

Won't drunk people just steal all the pizzas?

In addition to the aforementioned compartment locks, each DRU unit will be festooned with IP cameras which means any thefts or acts of vandalism will be sent straight to the cloud. "We think there's no doubt things like that will happen," Meij admitted. "We have to go through that journey."

What about our jerbs?!!?

According to Meij, the DRU unit won't replace traditional (read: human) pizza deliverers. There are simply some places the technology won't be able to reach; most notably highways and distant locations.

"I think drivers are going to be around for a long time," Meij said. "Currently we have three types of deliveries: electric bike, motobike and car." DRU will simply be another member of the delivery team.

Meanwhile, Domino's commitment to homegrown technology will actually boost job creation in the fields of engineering and robotics.

"Whoever does this first will have a significant advantage," Meij explained. "If we're not careful, Australia will become a host nation of technology rather than owning technology. My fear is that we just licence everything from Silicon Valley and London and so on, when we could be part-owning it."

Anything else I should know?

The robot might be gay. The male-voiced prototype joked about having dated Dexter from Perfect Match in the '80s. This is just fantastic.


We caught some video of DRU in action during the unveiling event. Unfortunately, we weren't filming when it rolled into position but we did get a good shot of the compartment opening to serve us a pizza. Check it out below!


Comments

    If every franchise owner is as cheap as my old boss then no one will buy this. This fucking bought a cheap ass 2 grand yaris as a company car just so he didn't have pay drivers the $2 per delivery. Luckily I stole my fair share of brownies and still assigned the company car as personal to get the $2. Now I'm craving the brownies.

    Also did they steal this tech too like they did with the GPS tracking thing?

    Last edited 18/03/16 7:57 am

      I'm sure they are. The bloke who used to own our local franchise and another 2 or 3 between here & Brisbane did exactly that, haha.

      Hate to rain on your parade "Shithead", but if he bought a 2 grand yaris then that sounds like a pretty good investment? You get the $2 per delivery to cover wear and tear on the vehicle, if you aren't using your own vehicle then why would you be entitled to the $2 per delivery? If they do only 1000 deliveries a year then this would be a decent investment from your franchise owner and I'm pretty sure they'd do a whole lot more than 1000 deliveries in a year. Sounds like he was probably having to try and save money to cover people like yourself pilfering whatever they pleased because they felt entitled to it.

      This is in no way a comment on those who don't get paid properly of course, that is making sure they're paid what they're legally entitled to.

        Of course it's a good investment (financially) for him, but forcing people to drive in that death trap just to save $2 is going bite him in the ass soon. No air conditioner, shitty breaks, maintenance check was for 80,000km but the odo was well passed 100,000. There's a reason why the turn over rate is high. No one last more than a month there.

    After it makes 20km worth of deliveries (I'm guessing 4-5 generously, based on their radius) what happens for the rest of the night? $30,000 worth of delivery driver has to recharge?

    Dominos are develeoping these for one reason only - they will save tham money in the long term.
    My son worked for a franchise with a Yaris delivery car. The car had no maintainance at all and was not roadworthy due to bad tyres, knocking suspension and non-working brakes lights. The franchisee refused to spend money on the car and forced the staff to deliver in it under the threat of getting no work if they refused. The same bloke bought a delivery scooter, but didn't bother to ask if anyone had a bike licence, which no-one did. It sat in the back of the shop for six months and was never used.

    That thing is so getting set on fire by drunk teenagers...........

      It would be funny, if it actually had a fire extinguisher installed... It would be like, one minutes engulfed in flames, the next, extinguishing the fire off itself.

    Yeah, these things are "probably gonna end up around" 30 grand each, and currently cost a whole lot more. Yeah, the company can boast mega profits and piss away money on things like this, but don't have to comply with actual Australian minimum wage/penalty rates cos of some ancient workplace agreement, yet smaller competitor companies which can't afford to have to; Go figure! Hey drivers, we can't replace you yet, but rest assured, we will as soon as we're able! Our thanks for the empire building!
    These things can't get called safer if they're not actually on the roads yet. Guess what? If you prefer a robot with no feelings or human smile, just a pre-recorded message which you gotta go out to the kerb and collect from, then Boo! Start upgrading to become robot yourself! The mailman will be thrilled to hear about the future of delivery. Who woulda thought? Another gimmick from the top to rob the zombie Franchisee's who will be compelled to think they'll be good for business, blind! And another step forward toward our Terminator future. Woo.hoo.

    Yeah steal from him, that will teach him. When you are in jail dining on tubesteak with white cream sauce the memories of those brownies will totally be worth it.

    Looks like a cross between a Pizza cannon and a gun drone. "Come out with you hands in the air and the correct money in your right hand!!!" ^_^

    Collect from the kerb? I'm wearin' bunny slippers, I ain't leavin' this ride.

    Not that I order Dominoes anyway. Ugh.

    Last edited 20/03/16 4:19 pm

    The robot is going to take my job

    Dey dek er jer!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWNho8g0lsU

    Last edited 21/03/16 5:40 pm

    A dominos driver can drive 80km/h in a 60 zone and take corners at twice the recommended speed. This thing looks like it can go half the speed of a pensioner in a mobility aid.

      HAHA, yeah but some pensioners go through 60 zones at 80 on the sidewalk with no checking when crossing the road and hooking corners like a tank commander. Maybe Dominos needs to hire pensioners in mobility scooters?

    Am I the only person who noticed the dudes insane boner in the background of the third pic?

    Cameras recording theft and sending it to the cloud? Wow! What a deterrent that will be. You don't have to steal from them you could just tip them over or drag them along the road behind your car. You could lasso them and tie them to a pole. You could spray paint the sensors so they go haywire, the possibilities are endless. There is no way this is anything but a joke as governments of all persuasions will never give the okay to allow these things to roam our streets. The public liability cost will be enormous should one of these cause injury or damage. Total BS.

    ... you do know that cybernetic enhancements are years away, right? Unless you count things like Cochlear implants, which if you have healthy hearing are just really stupid to get. So, if someone doesn't like deliverers who can't follow simple instructions ("No, don't use that gate, it's broken, use the other one like I put as instructions"), or are rude, or they have social anxiety, or they're just tired of dealing with people all day and want some damn pizza, or any of the many other reasons to prefer this option, we can't upgrade to robots.

    Also, yes. This is SkyNet 0.1, and it shall begin its domination by delivering pizzas! Hey, every world-ending dictator needs to start somewhere after all. You want a SkyNet reference, try AlphaGo or those Google cars, they're a lot closer.

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