Despite the full equipment, a human engineer will be behind the wheel, since the test is all about observing customers’ reactions. He’ll be hidden behind tinted windows, though, and won’t be ringing anybody’s doorbell. Customers who agree to be part of the trial will get a text when their order arrives. They’ll then have to walk out, meet the car, punch in the last four digits of their phone number on a touchscreen display installed at the rear passenger-side window and take out the pizza from a warming oven inside.
The partners will be keeping an eye on whether customers are willing to meet the self-driving car at the curb or if they want it to park in their driveway. They’ll observe how long it takes for people to punch in their codes and to take out their pizza from the oven. Most importantly, the test will help them determine if people are inclined to touch the car’s pricey LIDAR system spinning atop the vehicle. Ford will tweak the self-driving Fusion based on the trial’s results — we’ll bet the LIDAR system will end up hidden inside a tough casing if customers can’t stop themselves from touching.
The trial is a perfect fit for the automaker’s vision for its self-driving vehicles. Like many other companies working on autonomous vehicles, Ford aims to develop a self-driving car with no steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals. The automaker plans to use them for ride-sharing fleets, but it believes the vehicle has many other potential applications, including delivery. Sherif Marakby, Ford VP of autonomous and electric vehicles, said:
“It’s not just ride-sharing and ride-moving or people moving, but it’s also moving the goods. We develop the plan to go to market as we develop the tech. We work with partners (and) this is one example. There will be more in the future.”