With the looming advent of the age of autonomous cars comes many questions. Foremost among them: Can they deliver pizza? That's what Domino's and Ford will try to find out in the coming weeks when they deploy a jointly-developed self-driving car into the streets of Ann Arbor, Mich., that's equipped with a heated compartment hidden behind the passenger side rear window that rolls down and dishes out orders when a customer enters an access code into a tablet installed on the side of the vehicle. Whether its people or pizza, the question remains: What do you give a robot for a tip?
Consumer-packaged good shares have fallen about 7% as legacy brands struggle with American consumers' increasing interest in the fresh and natural foods sold at stores such as Whole Foods, along with Kroger, Wal-Mart and a growing number of traditional supermarkets. Executives at Kroger, whose shares are among the hardest hit in recent weeks, say they haven't changed their strategy following Amazon's push into grocery, but now feel a heightened urgency to invest in technology to better tailor promotions to shoppers and expand online-grocery pickup. News of the Amazon deal has also hurt Target's stock, and the retailer is putting renewed focus on its grocery business. While Amazon's grocery plan is still unclear, the company wants to draw customers into stores with lower prices and more convenience, adding perks like Amazon pickup lockers and Prime membership benefits, according to former executives.
Looking to ever expand ways to deliver goods to its customers, Amazon has patented a way to allow its drones to deliver packages without ever having to land. The patent would not only provide a safe distance between the UAVs and the people receiving the packages, but also cut down on noise pollution, BizJournals noted. Bezos, now the world's third-richest man with an estimated fortune of $83.3 billion according to Forbes, first showed off Amazon's drone delivery unit in a Dec. 2013 interview on "60 Minutes." It recently filed patents for a beehive-like structure that would allow drones to pick up and drop off packages.
Amazon Smart Home, the company's home security program, has been around since 2014, but only recently has it started working with voice recognition. Amazon Echo also connects to home security systems such as Scout, Alarm.com and SimpliSafe. With the ADT Pulse skill enabled, users can tell Alexa to arm and disarm their security system, check its status, turn interior and exterior lights on and off, lock and unlock specific doors or inquire about their status. Of course, you need one of Amazon's Alexa devices to handle your voice commands, ranging from the $49.99 Echo Dot to the $149.99 Amazon Tap and the $179.99 And now there's a new addition: the Echo Show ($229.99), Ask Alexa to show you the front door or a child's bedroom, and Echo Show pulls up a live feed from a camera.
Ocado, which launched 17 years ago and makes deliveries from a string of warehouses across the country, has just started testing its first self-driving "CargoPod" truck built by U.K. tech firm Oxbotica. It's designed primarily for short journeys or last-mile deliveries in urban or residential areas, taking relatively small orders to customers rather than weekly or monthly supplies. While Oxbotica is focusing on last-mile deliveries, the likes of Waymo and Uber are developing self-driving trucks big ones to transport large amounts of goods over much greater distances. Uber, meanwhile, last year drove a semi full of Budweiser along more than 100 miles of freeway using driverless technology developed by Otto, a tech company that it purchased for $680 million in 2016.
Recent events clearly suggest fast food fans will be very well catered for once full-fledged drone delivery services get off the ground. Oscar Mayer is the latest to join the party, this week unveiling the WienerDrone as part of its WienerFleet, which of course includes its famous WienerMobile. Domino's Pizza in New Zealand is already offering a limited drone delivery service for fans of the cheesy delight, flying orders from one of its outlets to customers in under 10 minutes. Domino's flying machine, built by Nevada-based drone specialist Flirtey, lowers the boxed pizza using a tether.
Boeing is looking ahead to a brave new world where jetliners fly without pilots and aims to test some of the technology next year, the world's biggest plane maker said in a briefing ahead of the Paris Airshow. Jetliners can already take off, cruise and land using their onboard flight computers and the number of pilots on a standard passenger plane has dropped to two from three over the years. Self-flying aircraft would need to meet the safety standards of air travel, which had its safest year in 2016, according to the Aviation Safety Network. After in-depth talks with nearly 60 customers it concluded that current wide-body planes have too much range for most of the routes narrow-body planes fly, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Kevin McAllister said in a separate briefing.
Bedford, Mass.-based iRobot announced updates for the iRobot HOME App on both iOS and Android to continue integrating its line of Roomba-connected vacuums to the smart home, integrating Amazon Alexa and its voice control into the app. In addition to adding voice control, the HOME App is getting new Clean Map reports that provide details about cleaning performance, including what part of the floor is the dirtiest, how much space was cleaned, time taken and more. Inside the iRobot HOME App, customers can start, stop and pause a cleaning job, using just their voice. The Alexa skill for Roomba vacuums will be available in the second quarter of 2017 to U.S. customers and is compatible with all connected Roomba vacuums, including the 900 series.
The coffee chain is testing a new feature within its iOS app and a skill for Amazon Alexa devices, both of which let customers place orders with just their voice. The new voice-ordering features are an extension of Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay, which lets you order and pay for items before arriving at the store. Starbucks is also launching a Reorder Skill for Amazon's Alexa platform that leverages Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay to let customers order their "usual" food and beverage items. Starbucks says its Mobile Order & Pay feature makes up more than 7 percent of transactions in US stores.
"Food-related technology like 3D food printers, robot chefs and fully automated fast food restaurants represent experiments or proof of concepts," says David Tal, the president of QUANTUMRUN, a consulting agency specializing in long-term strategic forecasting and planning. Flirtey, a Nevada-based drone delivery service, made high-flying history this July and August with its partnerships with 7-Eleven and Domino's. Boasting the world's first technology that cooks its deliveries en route, Zume Pizza is replacing the traditional stone pizza oven with 56 ovens on wheels. With the implementation of Chartwells K12 vending machines, schools are now able to serve nine USDA-complaint entrees in as few as 20 seconds.