So last week the world was introduced to Domino’s DRU. An autonomous pizza delivery vehicle that was seemingly lauded with fanfare form a global PR blitz, grabbing the headlines around the ever hot “delivery” technology playing field. A win for Domino’s.
So is this just a PR stunt? Or something much more real? It’s an interesting question, and when I was at SXSW just two weeks ago, I went to the Google Autonomous Car keynote, to see exactly where their program, powered by the world’s best minds, huge budgets and pre-approved trials is headed.
Domino’s much like Google, has a four-wheel autonomous vehicle, but that’s about where the similarities end; DRU travels on the road, along with foot-paths and even off-road too; infinitely multiplying the complexity of the autonomy of the vehicle, and raising questions around pedestrian safety, it’s own capability and the legality of where a vehicle like this will actually be allowed to travel?
Google’s Car on the other hand, takes the world’s most advanced road mapping data, and adds localised radar, lasers, proximity and cameras into perhaps the most advanced machine-learning based AI brain on the planet, allowing it to make near perfect decisions in real time, all the time, form all angles. And even with it’s infamous recent crash, the reality is, it probably was a mix of both the bus and Google car that were to blame.
In the keynote, I watched maybe 50 examples of how the Google car analysed situations and made perfect calls in real-time to scenarios that would almost be guaranteed to cause crashes for a human driver. Like when cars drive down the wrong side of the road, or multiple pedestrians and bike riders emerge in-front of cars on a free-way and intersections…
And with Google themselves suggesting their car is probably 10 years away from reality, it begs the question for Domino’s… Cheeky PR Stunt? Or a fully funded real-world robotics unit placing thousands of these weirdly-slow vehicles on the road (and foot paths) some time soon?