'Dru' the new self-driving robot launched by Domino's

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If Domino's latest creation is anything to go by the number of pizza delivery driver jobs could decrease in years to come and with a self-driving robot possibly becoming the newest recruit for the company in the future.

The company has launched the world's first autonomous delivery vehicle known as DRU, the Domino's Robotic Unit, which could revolutionise the way dinner makes its way to your door.

Domino's has been working with the start-up company Marathon Robotics to develop the potential game changer.

Don Meij, the Managing Director of Domino's Pizza Enterprises said, "This is a project that we dreamed of about a year ago and started working on just not that many months ago and he's well ahead of schedule and he's really exciting."

The robot weighs 180 kilograms. Source: Domino's
The robot weighs 180 kilograms. Source: Domino's

The company says a base unit for DRU has been a military robot to now.

Dr Alex Brooks from Marathon Robotics said, "This is inevitable. This is not a gimic. We've been working on this for over a decade in a very different field, the field of military training robots. So we have robots with the same core technology running all over the world."

"The basic part of DRU is actually a robot that armies are shooting at," said Mr Meij.

The company claims he'll be able to provide piping hot pizza more safely and will arrive even faster.

"A hotter, fresher pizza, safely delivered is the core, the essence of what DRU does," said Mr Meij.

"He can go up to 18-20 kilometres an hour, but he's predominately not doing that right now."

"The average Domino's store radius is about 1 to 3 kilometres. There's an amazing amount of that delivery area where DRUs can access by going bike paths and so on."

DRU is designed to navigate the best path from its origin to the delivery address, and even has on-board sensors to avoid obstacles in its path.

The robot is designed to have a compartment to keep drinks cool and another to keep pizzas hot. Source: Domino's
The robot is designed to have a compartment to keep drinks cool and another to keep pizzas hot. Source: Domino's

But if it does get lost your order should still be fresh - DRU contains compartments to keep the customer’s order piping hot and drinks cold.

And while the robot might look like an easy target for would-be pizza thieves and graffiti artists, it might be a bit harder to ambush than it looks - weighing in at 180 kilograms.

"He'll be covered in cameras so there'll be lots of observations as that's taking place," said Mr Meij.

DRU is designed to navigate around obstacles. Source: Domino's
DRU is designed to navigate around obstacles. Source: Domino's

The world-first in the food space also has a number of special features set to make the transaction between it and the consumer easier, including lighting to help customers identify and interact with it.

But there's still a long way to go before DRU could become a really independent delivery robot.

"While he won’t be taking the to the streets tomorrow, DRU is a big step forward in the work Domino’s is doing in the future commercialisation of this technology," a statement on the Domino's website says.

The company says it could be as soon as two or three months that the first DRU deliveries makes their way to hungry customers, with the supervision of Domino's employees.

"It's certainly more challenging than operating on training ranges and this is the beginning of a journey. You know, this is a prototype at the moment but we'll get there," said Dr Alex Brooks.

Robotics lecturer at the University of Queensland, Dr Paul Pounds is skeptical about the costs of robotic technology, but agrees a future with delivery robots in some form is inevitable.

Newsbreak – March 18

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