October 4, 2016
We’ve all been there. Sitting at home waiting for a large, pepperoni and mushroom pizza to arrive at the front door after ordering on your smartphone. The “smart tracker” says it should have been there 20 minutes ago, but it’s delivery, so you know it’s still going to be a couple more minutes. When it does finally arrive, the cheese is hard, the crust is soggy, and the cardboard pizza box is drenched in grease that stopped keeping your pie warm more than an hour ago. Clearly, the pizza delivery system is broken. So who is going to fix it? Robots, that’s who.
One startup is perfecting the pizza delivery process by adding robots to the mix. With enough algorithms and smart technology to make Tim Cook shudder, Zume Pizza has combined delivery trucks, mini-ovens, and pizza-making robots to bring customers hot and fresh pizzas delivered on-time to their front door. Because that’s the way pizza was meant to be eaten.
“Pizza is not meant to sit in a cardboard box, ever,” said Julia Collins, cofounder of Zume Pizza to NPR. “The best pizza you ever had came right out of the oven.”
With a team of delivery trucks, each fitted with 56 mini-ovens, the process is remarkably simple. Customers can place orders on the Zume Pizza smartphone app. This alerts a team of mostly robots to assemble the 14-inch pies, which then get loaded partially baked into their own private ovens. When the truck is four minutes away from a particular destination, the algorithm starts the oven, making sure each pizza is hot and ready when it gets to your front door.
Don’t worry, there is a human element to this pizza delivery process. The human driver of the truck is responsible for slicing and delivering your pizza to your door, as a robotic arm ringing your doorbell would be quite unsettling. But other than that, robots are doing all of the heavy lifting.
“She doesn’t have to think about when to turn the ovens on, whether to turn the ovens off,” Collins says. “She doesn’t have to think about what route to take or whom to go to first. All of that is driven off of our algorithm.”
Yes, robots are taking your jobs. But as study after study has shown, the automation of simple jobs like this only serves to provide qualified workers with a wide range of new jobs that will pay more and contribute more to society. Fortunately, the pizza delivery person is still in good shape. That is, until self-driving cars become the norm.
Photo: Flickr / PINKE
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