Pizza Hut’s Self-Driving Delivery Trucks With Toyota Could Be on the Road by 2020

Uber and Amazon are also partners for the e-Palette

Toyota's e-Palette, a self-driving vehicle, could be used for Pizza Hut deliveries as soon as 2020. Marty Swant
Headshot of Marty Swant

In the near future, be sure to tip your robot. Just don’t tip it over while it’s delivering you pizza.

Pizza Hut has been working with Toyota to develop ways to deliver personal pies via person-less transportation. One of those ways: Using the auto brand’s autonomous driving platform to operate an e-Palette, a self-driving vehicle that looks like a toaster oven with wheels.

“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,” Pizza Hut U.S. president Artie Starrs said in a statement. “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.”

This week during the Consumer Electronics Show, a model of the e-Palette has been on display at Toyota’s booth on the showroom floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where one side of the vehicle looped between various digital displays showing what it might look like to transport anything from pizzas and people to boxes and shoes.

The car is part of a broader partnership called the “mobility service business alliance,” which brings together a variety of brands including Uber, Amazon, Didi and Mazda to develop new ways of delivering goods and services. The e-Palette is still just a concept.

According to Sherhara Downing, a product specialist at Toyota, the company plans to have a working version ready for the 2020 Olympics in Japan. (And while cars won’t be on the road for a few more years, Pizza Hut and Toyota are already collaborating on ways to improve delivery communication this year by capturing data on driver patterns and behaviors.)

“It’s really about thinking about mobility in the future,” she told Adweek. “We all see it happening right now where everything is getting delivered to us, so now how does does technology play a role in actual delivery for human services?”

So how do the delivery companies prevent anyone from stealing from them? Downing said details haven’t been released yet.

“I love pizza, and I love stuffed crust, but I wouldn’t steal it if I knew it was going to somebody else.”

The timing of the announcement also comes just weeks after a self-driving pizza delivery car was a focal point in an episode of the most recent season of Black Mirror, which was released late last month. In the episode, a man is hit by the moving vehicle, which sets in motion a variety of other dystopian events. The show’s Twitter account then responded, naturally, with a less than cheery tweet likely only understood by anyone who’s seen the whole episode.

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.