The arrival of fully self-driving cars on our roads in the not-all-that-distant future raises many big questions. Are they safe? How will they interact with human drivers? How many lives can they save? What happens with car insurance? Can they really cure congestion? Who will be liable in the case of an accident?
But here’s a slightly different autonomous car-related question that Ford’s senior management have been pondering: how much would you pay for a pizza delivered by a self-driving car?
This pizza poser grew from Ford’s partnership with Domino’s Pizza to trial autonomous deliveries in the American states of Michigan and Florida, using specially converted Fusions. It sounds like a gimmick, but Ford vice president Jim Farley insists it has been hugely informative.
“Just think about people in apartment buildings,” he said. “There’s no driver to get the goods from the car to the customer, so what price do you have to discount [the pizza] for them to walk down and get it from an autonomous vehicle?”
Even if you’re addicted to hot slices of cheese, tomato and pepperoni-slathered dough, this might not seem like the most pressing issue related to autonomy. But it is the sort of question that highlights the many ways driverless cars will impact society.
When it comes to food delivery, for example, the relationship between hungry customer and pizza purveyor is changed. An autonomous vehicle can’t get from the road to your door: you have to go and get the pizza from the car (customers are sent a four-digit code, which they type into a keypad on the car to unlock a storage compartment).