Fast food pizza chain Domino’s recently announced a robot, DRU, that uses military-grade navigational technology to autonomously deliver pizzas. Domino’s insists that it will roll out bots in Australia in 2017, but details are sparse. Still, we get the idea: A three-foot-tall bot will trundle around obstacles at 12 mph, arrive at your door, and, when you punch in a code, disgorge a pizza. That said, there is something about the bot that makes it unlikely that pizzas will arrive on time, if ever. DRU doesn’t have any weapons.
DRU is going to get mugged.
We’re not saying anyone should throw a blanket over DRU’s sensors, flip it to the side in the way a coyote preys upon a turtle, take a crowbar to its plastic Baymax exterior, and liberate the piping hot pie via back-alley bot C-section. But someone will. We know this. Consider, for the moment, the traveling robot Hitchbot who was murdered and left on a Philadelphian curb. Hitchbot didn’t even have pizza.
While Domino’s might subscribe to the Steven Pinker school of thought that, big picture, violence is decreasing, it must acknowledge there is still plenty to go around and people feel little compunction about hurting robots. Australians know this. After DRU’s announcement, fans of Domino’s Australia Facebook page peppered the comments section with variations on a theme of “this shit is gonna get jacked”. In response, Domino’s social media team responded with what amounts to Big Brother is watching DRU:
The safety of all our delivery fleet is a number one priority and DRU is absolutely no different. We will be taking every precaution necessary to ensure he is safe including surveillance and security etc.
Inverse reached out to Domino’s in the hopes of finding out the precise nature of “etc,” but didn’t hear back. Left to our own devices, we can only envision some sort of central hub with a human monitor who is tracking a swarm of camera-equipped DRUs as they go on their merry way. Outfitting DRU to fight back would be just asking to get sued, so using cameras and triggering law enforcement alerts are the logical solution to the pizza mugging problem. That means that DRU won’t ever be a mech warrior, but he will be an automated boon to the neighborhood watch. Domino’s will put surveillance cameras in residential neighborhoods.
That DRU needs a defense mechanism underscores the fact that human drivers are more than just transporters. We don’t think of people as having defense mechanisms, but we do — from our ability to cry in alarm down to our cellular membranes that protect the delicate structures within, our existence has been shaped by competition for resources. If DRU is to survive, it’ll have to get just as red in tooth and claw as the rest of us.