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Fast casual dining chain Pizza Hut and carmaker Toyota have joined forces to develop an autonomous, self-driving vehicle with the intention of radically changing how pizzas are made and delivered to customers.
At the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Toyota unveiled an autonomous concept delivery vehicle called e-Palette, and brought on board Pizza Hut owner Yum Brands, as well as Amazon, Uber and Mazda to form a new mobility services business alliance.
Pizza Hut has already been exploring the use of technology to improve its delivery services – besides technical innovations designed to keep food hot for longer, it has also recently introduced a delivery algorithm to improve the accuracy and reliability of its service, as well as a voice-based ordering “skill” for Amazon’s Alexa home assistant.
It has also launched an in-house tech startup, Pizza Hut Digital Ventures, which has already developed a new web and application service and launched it in the UK.
“In our ongoing and relentless pursuit to own and define the modern pizza experience for our customers, we are focused on technology-based solutions that enable our team members and drivers to deliver even better customer experiences,” said Pizza Hut’s US president Artie Starrs.
“With Toyota, we are excited to be partnering with an undisputed leader in human mobility with a reputation for innovation, reliability and efficiency, as we define the pizza delivery experience of the future.”
The service will combine Toyota’s proprietary mobility services platform (MSPF) to develop connected mobility solutions and a flexible, purpose-built delivery vehicle, which could hit the streets by 2020. Pizza Hut said the e-Palette vehicle could even be developed as a mobile kitchen, meaning pizzas could potentially be cooked en route to the customer if wanted.
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The two firms are also working together to improve their existing driver and delivery ecosystem. Later this year, Pizza Hut will test dual communication technology in its delivery vehicles to monitor driver patterns and behaviours and improve delivery performance and safety.
“The common ground between our two global brands is fueled by innovation that enriches peoples' lives,” said Zack Hicks, Toyota Connected CEO.
“The e-Palette Alliance and e-Palette fully autonomous vehicle are major steps in our expansion to advance products and services that help provide mobility for all, and we’re thrilled to continue the journey in partnership with Pizza Hut.”