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Are we ready for autonomous delivery cars?

A self driving Ford delivering a Domino pizza in Ann Arbor, Mich, US. Credit: TechCrunch

Cars manufacturers are now seriously working to make self driving car a widespread reality in the next decade. Yet making it widespread requires more than foolproof technology. It requires acceptance by the market, that is… us!

Studies are ongoing to evaluate the acceptability of being driven, rather than be at the wheel. MIT has an ongoing study, in cooperation with the New England Motor Press Association, and has published its second report in Spring 2017. It shows that very few people are willing/interested in buying a car that takes over the driving completely and a significant portion (48%) declares they would never buy a self-driving car.  Interestingly, the number of people who would accept a car that always drives itself has decreased from 24% in 2016 to 13%  in 2017. It would seem people are not getting used at the idea!

Results of the interest/willingness to accept various forms of automation in cars, comparing results from 2016 and 2017. More people seems willing to accept automation as long as the human driver remains in control. The acceptability of a self driving cars is low and has decreased from 2016 to 2017. Credit: MIT

Now Ford and Domino (pizza!!!) are teaming up to experiment the acceptability by customer of autonomous delivery of pizza, using a self driving car. In the experiment, run in Ann Arbor, Mich, Domino’s customers can opt in to have their pizza delivered by a self driving car (if one is available). If they elect to do that, and a car is available, they are given a code to open the delivery box on the car and can follow the approaching car through an app on their smart phone.

Just by recording the number of customers that are ready to accept this new type of delivery provides some interesting information on the acceptability. Here the issue is completely different form the acceptability of a car replacing you, as driver, but involves the trust a customer can have on an autonomous delivery.

Clearly it is a quite expensive experiment and given the cost of today’s self driving car it is unlikely that it would be economically sustainable in the near term.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. He's currently Head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital, co-chair of the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative of IEEE-FDC. Until Aprile 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books. He writes a daily blog,  http://sites.ieee.org/futuredirections/category/blog/, with commentary on innovation in various technology and market areas.

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