On March 29th, Starship Technologies, a self-driving robotics company, announced a partnership with Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, a franchisor for the Domino’s Pizza brand in Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Japan, and Germany (totalling over 2,000 stores). This new affiliation allows Starship Technologies to build a fleet of autonomous delivery robots, helping Domino’s with its eventual delivery person shortage, based on the company’s growth estimates for the next 5-to-10 years.
Don Meij, Domino’s Group CEO and Managing Director says that, “Robotic delivery units will complement our existing delivery methods, including cars, scooters, and e-bikes, ensuring our customers can get the hottest, freshest-made pizza delivered directly to them, wherever they are.”
While this certainly sounds like an ideal world where all you have to do is turn around to get a fresh slice pizza, this news comes with a few caveats. For now, these robots will only be delivering pizzas to customers within a one-mile radius of Domino’s stores in select German and Dutch cities. In addition, these battery-powered robots can only navigate on sidewalks, can only get up to four miles per hour, and can only carry up to twenty pounds at a time--so go easy on the stuffed cheesy bread.
Other countries, including the US, have been experimenting with food delivery robots for the past year. In February, US-based companies Postmates and DoorDash began the testing of Starship Technologies’ delivery robots in Washington D.C. and Redwood City, respectively.
One reason why the US isn’t seeing a larger rollout of these six-wheeled, three-foot tall delivery robots is due to state laws. A few days before the Starship Technologies/Domino’s Pizza Enterprises partnership was announced, Idaho became the second state to pass legislation permitting the use of unmanned, ground-based delivery robots (joining Virginia). Florida and Wisconsin might be next, with legislators in those respective states introducing similar bills within the past month.
Idaho’s new law also allows local municipalities to adopt their own regulations, giving towns the authority to limit the robots to certain speeds and to certain locations in the area. It’s clear that, as this type of technology continues to spread, state and municipal legislators will have much to discuss and deliberate over.
It’s also clear that while unmanned delivery robots can help restaurants and other companies with staffing, the need for technology maintenance will increase. Employees might be late to work or get lost on a delivery run, but they don’t run the risk of glitches or hacking (not to mention theft). As more and more robots are introduced into the workforce, IT companies can help keep your mechanical employees, and the machines that your human employees operate, up and running.
What do you think about robots delivering pizza? Clever marketing ploy by Domino’s, or an efficient way to feed the hungry masses? Share with us your thoughts in the comments below!