UPDATE: April 12, 2021: Domino's has officially begun testing autonomous pizza delivery with Nuro, a self-driving delivery company, in Houston this week, according to a press release. Select diners who place delivery orders from the website of a Domino's in Woodland Heights can choose to have their pie delivered by Nuro's R2 robot. The R2 robot is the first entirely autonomous, occupant-free, on-road delivery vehicle with regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"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," Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, said in a statement. "The growing demand for great-tasting pizza creates the need for more deliveries, and we look forward to seeing how autonomous delivery can work along with Domino's existing delivery experts to better support the customers' needs."
- Domino's has partnered with Nuro, creator of unmanned robotic vehicles, to launch autonomous pizza delivery in Houston later this year, according to Domino's.
- Select Houston customers who order online from a participating Domino's location will have the option to use Nuro's autonomous delivery vehicle called R2. Diners can track the vehicle on the Domino's app and will be sent a PIN code to unlock it and access their pizza.
- "The opportunity to bring our customers the choice of an unmanned delivery experience, and our operators an additional delivery solution during a busy store rush, is an important part of our autonomous vehicle testing," Kevin Vasconi, Domino's executive vice president and CIO, said in the release.
This partnership comes just a month after reports surfaced that Uber was in talks with Nuro for food delivery. The companies were also reportedly eyeing the Houston market for a possible pilot, where the robotics firm is currently testing self-driving grocery delivery with Kroger.
If Nuro does seal a deal with Uber, on top of its upcoming test with Domino's, driverless delivery could quickly scale in the restaurant space. Domino's did not disclose what its pizza's journey would be like via the autonomous vehicle, but reports about Uber suggest that Nuro cars would pick up food deliveries from restaurants before taking them to a designated location for human drivers to complete the last mile.
According to a report by The Information, this strategy is meant to help couriers with high volumes by not having to travel to each restaurant to pick up orders, which could help them save time and earn more money.
If Domino's employs a similar model, it could help the pizza giant shave down driver costs. The chain has been investing in innovative delivery technology left and right over the years, including a partnership with Xevo, an in-vehicle commerce and services provider, earlier this year. Customers can order from the in-car interface and track their pizza using the Domino's Tracker. The feature will be automatically added into millions of vehicles with the Xevo platform later this year. The technology builds on its already sizable portfolio of competitive off-premise offerings, such as its Hotspot pickup locations and drone delivery tests.
It seems likely that if the Nuro experiment takes off, other major pizza players will seek similar partnerships. The delivery robot market is expected to grow from $11.9 million last year to $34 million in 2024, for example, according to a MarketsandMarkets report. This trend is already reflected in investments by Domino's rivals, such as Pizza Hut's truck prototype with a pizza-making robot and its upcoming delivery bot test with FedEx this summer.