Your driverless pizza delivery is finally on its way

Still not sure what the allure of this is.

No Noids were harmed in the writing of this post

Autonomous cars will begin delivering Domino’s pizzas to Houstonians through a new partnership between the pizza chain and Nuro, a California startup, the companies announced Monday.

Domino’s is rolling out Nuro’s first driverless model this week at its Woodland Heights location on Houston Avenue.

Nuro first ventured into Houston through a partnership with Kroger, which began using its fleet of self-driving Toyota Priuses to make grocery deliveries in 2019. It expanded its delivery footprint in Houston last year with a prescription delivery service through CVS as demand for delivery services soared during the pandemic.

Now, Domino’s customers in the Heights who have prepaid for delivery online will be able to select the driverless option, according to a Domino’s news release. They will then receive a text with a location for the robot vehicle, called the R2, and a PIN number to enter into the vehicle’s touchscreen once it arrives. The PIN unlocks the R2’s doors so customers can retrieve their order.

The delivery service will cost the same as Domino’s existing delivery options, the company said. Delivery charges vary from store to store, but are $3.35 per order at the Woodland Heights location.

The Nuro/Domino’s partnership was supposed to happen in 2019, but for whatever the reason got delayed. I’ve written plenty about Nuro, and my questions about why anyone would choose this option as opposed to the old-fashioned person-delivery option remain the same. I get that contactless delivery has its appeal in times of pandemic, but we are steadily moving out of those times. I could see the appeal if Domino’s charged you less to retrieve your own pizza from its vehicle instead of having it brought to your front door, but that isn’t the case either. I guess you get to save a couple of bucks on the tip, but if that’s what would motivate you to do it this way, I have to question your priorities. Someone help me out here – what exactly is the appeal of this option? I do not get it.

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3 Responses to Your driverless pizza delivery is finally on its way

  1. ken roberts says:

    You covered the appeal of new technology and saving the money on a tip.

    The only thing I would add to that is some people appreciate avoiding the social interaction with the delivery person, which is complicated further due to the tip aspect of the exchange.

    We have people who have phone anxiety and won’t order from restaurants if they need to do it over the phone. This is similar and existed before the pandemic.

    Personal Aside: Despite living only ½ mile from the Woodland Heights Domino’s, I will not be ordering pizza for delivery or carryout from there. I haven’t ordered delivery from a restaurant in over a decade, despite having had a knee surgery during that time and eating takeout multiple times per week. That is my own hangup that is mostly unrelated to the social anxiety aspect above. It is more related to not liking to have people serve me when I can do it myself. I don’t really like being waited upon in restaurants, either, but I can accept that more easily. I still would prefer to get my own drink refills.

    I realize this is silly.

  2. Ken: Very interesting, thank you for the feedback. I had not considered the social interaction aspect of this. To be sure, none of the news stories I have read about this new offering, or of the driverless grocery/pharmacy deliveries that are being piloted here as well, have mentioned it either. If Nuro and its partners consider that a selling point, they’re not acting like it.

    I can see how this would be appealing to some folks. Probably that appeal is greater than I might think at first. Now I’m wondering if Nuro et al are aware of this, and if so to what extent it has factored into their marketing plan.

  3. ken roberts says:

    The phone anxiety issue I hear quite often. I think I have at least a dozen friends who have either said they don’t order from restaurants over the phone or have made it clear that they wouldn’t. That came up when I encouraged people to order from local restaurants over the phone rather than use their UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash etc. platform, because the restaurant might save money in fees that way.

    I don’t have that kind of phone anxiety, though I do avoid phone banking whenever possible.

    As for Nuro, I’m extrapolating what I’ve heard people say about bellhops, skycaps, and other tipping situations. Tipping, in general, can be cause anxiety even if you don’t interact much with the person you’re tipping (e.g., hotel housekeeping).

    The more personal the tipping exchange, the more uncomfortable many people are with it.

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