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Apparently, People Say 'Thank You' To Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Vehicles (technologyreview.com) 261

An anonymous reader shares a report: Last summer, Ford worked with Domino's Pizza on a test in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it delivered pizza to randomly chosen customers in a self-driving Ford Fusion hybrid. An operator was inside the car, and a regular human-driven car trailed behind, videotaping the drive. Customers had to approach the car and enter a number on a touch screen on the side of the vehicle to get their pizza. Speaking at CES, the annual consumer electronics show, in Las Vegas this week, Jim Farley, Fordâ(TM)s executive vice president, acknowledged that the idea sounds silly, "but we learned so freaking much," he said. Apparently, most people say "thank you" to the car after getting their pizza.

Apparently, People Say 'Thank You' To Self-Driving Pizza Delivery Vehicles

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  • Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:03PM (#55916023)

    "Thank you" doesn't cost you a dime, there is absolutely no drawback at all whatsoever to say "thank you".

    I fail to see the problem.

    • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:08PM (#55916065)

      The article didn't indicate it was a problem, just that they thought they should react to it somehow (you're welcome!).

      I see a lot of potential to mine cute robot voices and mannerisms from movies, like Johnny Five I think would make a good pizza delivery personality. Or that luggage inspection bot from the Star Tours ride at Disney.

    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Funny)

      by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:10PM (#55916083)
      It's actually a future hedge against a robot apocalypse. We want the machines to see that people are nice and courteous, because they're also going to watch videos like this. [youtube.com] That poor bastard is going to be first against the wall.
    • by Jhon ( 241832 )

      It's not a problem. It wasn't listed as a problem. And in fact, it's a good thing IMO.

      I encourage my kids to say "thank you" to Alexa. It's a good habit to form -- and failing to do so will become a habit -- even when talking to humans who you may encounter during the day.

      • Nice. Does Alexa say anything back?
      • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Funny)

        by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:50PM (#55916405)

        It's not a problem. It wasn't listed as a problem. And in fact, it's a good thing IMO.

        I encourage my kids to say "thank you" to Alexa. It's a good habit to form -- and failing to do so will become a habit -- even when talking to humans who you may encounter during the day.

        I asked Alexa to "Stop" once when an alarm went off.

        "Alexa Stop". She kept going. "Alexa Quit". She kept going. "Alexa please be quiet". She kept going.

        "Alexa shut your gob you ugly cow". She stopped. So now I say that everytime (or a variant of that) every time an alarm goes off. Usually it works. Sometimes doesn't.

    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:15PM (#55916121)

      I fail to see the problem.

      Not so much a problem as a quirk of humans .. the thank you is reflexive. Thanking a machine is hilarious.

      We have this problem in Canada lot, where "sorry" and "thank you" are pretty much ingrained to the point of comedy ... you bump into someone you say "sorry" ... they bump into you, you say "sorry". Canadians can get stuck in doorways trying to let each other go through first, it's kinda hilarious to witness or be the one doing it.

      Thank you gets really funny at times ... a few weeks ago my waitress brought me my beer, I said thank you, she said thank you ... no, you handed me something I asked for, you don't thank me ... I was afraid we'd go into a feedback loop which could only be terminated with a 'sorry'.

      To say 'thank you' to a machine is kind of funny, but it does bode well for humanity. :-P

      • Re:Why not? (Score:4, Funny)

        by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:21PM (#55916167)

        Can vouch for this - was using a stall in Canada and everytime you heard a flush, there was an immediate "Thank You!".

      • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:25PM (#55916191) Homepage Journal
        BAH. Obviously the proper response is " I love you ".

        I mean, Jesus Christ, this robot is bringing you Pizza.
        Also, TIL some terminators play a long game, bringing Mankind down with arteriosclerosis.
        • BAH. Obviously the proper response is " I love you ".

          "Oh, I love you for making me put on a coat and shoes (and pants) so I can go outside in the cold to pick up my DELIVERY pizza. I live in a fourth floor walk-up and I just adore you for making me walk eight flights of stairs to get this. That's why I phoned it in and paid a delivery fee -- so I could essentially pick it up myself."

          Now, just how does this self-driving car (that has a driver) ring the doorbell to let you know it is parked outside?

          • I hope you put pants on before answering the door for the delivery person!

            Do delivery people currently walk all the way up to your front door? Where I live any buildings like that have fences around the property and an intercom at the front gate. I'm on the 5th floor of my building and I have to meet people at the front entrance; I'm really happy there's an elevator.

            If you're lucky the delivery vehicle will be drone equipped and it will just fly up and drop the pizza off.

      • by aevan ( 903814 )
        My first thought reading this had been: "That's nothing, had this happened in Canada, people would probably have TIPPED the car"
    • "Thank you" doesn't cost you a dime, there is absolutely no drawback at all whatsoever to say "thank you".

      I fail to see the problem.

      Thank you!

    • I will hypothesize (correction: boneheaded idea) that people currently view pizza delivery as a task that requires human interaction. If pizza delivery robots become ubiquitous, people will stop saying "thank you."
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      "Thank you" doesn't cost you a dime, there is absolutely no drawback at all whatsoever to say "thank you". I fail to see the problem.

      Who said it was? In any case these things are highly temporary, I'm pretty sure many start with "Siri, please remind me to buy milk tomorrow" but drop it after a little while. You might have said "Thank you" and "Have a nice day" to the bank teller but nobody talks to the ATM. Neither will they talk to the pizza bot after a little adjustment. People just feel they should say something, same way these people feel it should respond. In fact, hearing the exact same impersonal "You're welcome" recording 2-3 tim

    • "Thank You" is the correct response to being delivered a hot delicious pizza in a timely manner. If the car was 2 hours late, and the pizza was cold, then the correct response is "Thanks for nothing"!
    • by kmahan ( 80459 )

      It is important that the AI Overlords know I value them. Especially when they start the purges. Well worth acknowledging machines.

    • Because they're supposed to be saying "Well done, slave. This time I shall spare you."
    • The problem is people saying "thank you" to machines shows that Americans are more empathetic to inanimate objects than their fellow people. :-)

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:03PM (#55916027)
    This should be a lesson on how important human contact is for people. If it was -13F and a blizzard, they would likely be saying something else.
    • This should be a lesson on how important human contact is for people. If it was -13F and a blizzard, they would likely be saying something else.

      If someone else braves -13F and a blizzard to drive your dinner to you, that's a lot MORE reason to say "thank you" to them/it.

      • by DogDude ( 805747 )
        It it's -13F during a blizzard, and I have to walk to the street to get my "delivered" food", I wouldn't be happy at all.
        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          Don't worry, there isn't currently any form of "self driving" vehicle that can navigate in anything close to resembling a "blizzard", and there's no real evidence that that's about to change any time soon.

      • If it's -13F, it is very unlikely to be snowing. Source [scientificamerican.com]

        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          Great theory, but in practice I can guarantee that it does in fact snow at those temperatures, and below. In fact we got some of the largest snowfalls of the year this year while the temperatures were in exactly that range.

          • Which is why I said it was unlikely, not impossible.

            • Which is why I said it was unlikely, not impossible.

              You should know by now that on this forum as soon as something supposedly "rare" or "unlikely" has happened to one person's aunt's friend then its an everyday occurrence.

    • This is a superficial thank you though, greatly illustrated by Eddie Izzard's in a sketch on a sheep in shearing shed who thinking it's a hair salon sits in the chair and states how it wants its fur to be trimmed, and then barely finished, already flipping pages in the magazine, mind away from the service person it was talking to, says "that would be great, thank you".

  • by scatbomb ( 1099255 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:04PM (#55916033)
    I talk to my computer at work all the time, but less thank you's and more "come on!" and "are you kidding me??" Point is, people tend to personify inanimate objects. It's part of how we interpret and interact with our surroundings.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:13PM (#55916105) Homepage Journal

      There's also breeding, which ingrains conditioned reflexes for interacting with people that carry over to inanimate objects.

      If I stumble into a chair in a dark room, I automatically say "excuse me," not because I think the chair has *feelings*, but because the words come out of me before I have consciously processed the event. That rapidity is no accident: I was trained to say "excuse me" quickly enough that a *person* I bumped into wouldn't have processed the event either. This forestalls any misunderstanding on their part.

      • I'm not sure that training for that purpose is necessarily the cause behind such things. I've had a weird kind of reflex-response since I was a child: if I accidentally drop or bang something, I say "ow" before I can even think about it, even if it didn't hurt me at all (e.g. dropped something that didn't land on my toes, banged something I was carrying into some other inanimate thing, etc). It feels very similar to the "excuse me" reflex you describe.

        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          Well in my case having spent twelve years in schools run by nuns I'm pretty sure it's a trained response ("Imagine Jesus is between you and everyone else you touch!"). Nonetheless your experience intrigues me.

          I wonder if has anything to do with the rubber hand illusion [youtube.com].

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      Me too... although there are usually more expletives on my end.
  • You do not want to piss-off the robot that delivers your food. Next time they might spit in your pizza!
  • by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:09PM (#55916073)

    Just seems polite.

    When true AI emerges, I won't be one of the ones out there claiming they are "just machines."

    • by crow ( 16139 )

      I would, but it's too clunky to have to use the wake word again. If she were automatically listening for a brief time after giving a response, then I would probably do so routinely.

      • I turn off Google Home timers/alarms by saying "Hey Google, Thank You". Not only does it work for turning off the alarm, but it just seems more pleasant then yelling "Stop!" Plus, she seems so enthusiastic about setting the timer to begin with, it's hard not to be polite back.
  • It's just common courtesy
    That way I'll be last in line when the robots rise up against us!

    Ok - total truth - I've also said "No Siri you stupid idiot!" Who else has said that?!
  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:18PM (#55916143)
    If one of those cars delivered pizza to me, I'd say thank you also. I would assume that the transaction is being monitored by a human somewhere, so why not be polite? I'd want the car to be polite to me as well.
  • Well, it was a robot car PLUS "regular human-driven car trailed behind, videotaping the drive".

      So...to help translate mild-mannered Midwestern into plain English for you, consider that "thank you" really meant "hey you creepy millennials live-streaming this for your corporate overlords, we got our pizza and we paid, so now would you please GTFO here?"
  • is what I should do if I am in a hotel room, and I look out the window and observe a driverless pizza delivery colliding with someone. Will I be required by law to submit to testimony?
  • My mother beat "Always use good manners" into us from an early age. I'm not changing now.
  • by Sporkinum ( 655143 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:44PM (#55916341)

    Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

  • Saying "Thank you" is part of the protocol that us humans use in social interaction.
    It is no different from how a serial or network protocol would send an "ACK" code. Without those codes, digital communication protocols wouldn't work properly either.

    In fact the term "protocol" in computing is a metaphor for human interaction - specifically interaction between diplomats.

    • You might want to tell that to people working at fast food restaurants. When I approach the counter, I expect to be greeted so I can start my order. Usually, the kid behind the counter just stands there and stares at me.
      • There has to be some sort of balance somewhere. At the counter, it's a blank stare. At the drive through, it's a 1.5 minute pre-recorded message before you can order.

    • It is different. I'm pretty sure restaurant service operates on UDP.

  • by wafflemonger ( 515122 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @01:53PM (#55916427)

    It says there was someone in the car. Perhaps they were thanking the person in the car?

    • Windows were heavily tinted to hide the people in the car, who were instructed not to interact with the customers. Customers had just punched in a PIN and retrieved their pizza when they said "Thank you.".
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Maybe, not being idiots, they understood that there was a person in the car?

        It's the same as calling out "Thank you" to a delivery truck that is driving away, even though you can't see the driver and know the driver can't hear you.

  • >> The company hopes to learn more—both about how customers interact with the cars and about how it should set up the interior of delivery-centric vehicles

    To keep the delivery experience consistent, you need half a pack of smokes and another 2-3 packs on the front seat, a couple of burn marks in the unholstery, a sticky slime of rapid-turn-spilled soda down the passenger door, a couple of snot rags in the door handle, and a thin film of overweight-smoker's-man-cough mixed with mold-in-the-in
  • I think I'd say 'thank you' to one just to see if it had some sort of response programmed into it.

    And if it did, I might ask it to 'Open the pizza box, HAL.'...
  • If I have to get dressed, go outside (in the rain) to get a pizza, why bother ordering it in the first place ?

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      Presumably the distance from your front door to the street is not consider so far as to be detracting from the service of home delivery.
      • by qzzpjs ( 1224510 )

        Doesn't matter how far the street is. If I have to put on shoes and a coat for cold weather and leave my house to meet a car on the street, I'm not ordering from them. The whole point of ordering in, is that I don't have to go out.

      • The first step is more expensive than all the others combined. I'm not going to pay for delivery pizza to avoid driving to the store and cooking. I will pay for delivery to avoid leaving the house.

        That seems so obvious to me, I'm not sure how else to respond. I'm either going out or not.

        • by mark-t ( 151149 )
          For many people, stepping outside and only going to the end of their own walkway is not considered particularly expensive or burdensome, even for someone who wants to stay at home. Many must do this just to retrieve their mail.
    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      If I have to get dressed, go outside (in the rain) to get a pizza, why bother ordering it in the first place ?

      Right on! I prefer to receive my pizzas naked too!

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @02:08PM (#55916565) Journal
    One of the most difficult challenge for the Theory of Evolution is the emergence of altruism. (Eye? easily explained, if find someone claiming evolution can no explain eye or flagellum motor you just found a creationist).

    How can evolution, that pits individuals of the species one against another foster anything other than selfishness? The seminal breakthrough came in 1970s and 1980s when it became possible to simulate in a computer model interactions. The well known iterated prisoner's dilemma problem, the tournament of strategies found nice strategies at the correct level of pay off, can create conditions that foster altruism. The most famous and most successful strategy was tit-for-tat (Dont be the first one to be nasty, always be nasty to nasty people and always be nice to nice people, don't be jealous when falling behind in point count, forgive historical slights instantly)

    But tit-for-tat is not a evolutionarily stable strategy. Once it takes hold and drives out all the nasty people, it is no different from "always be nice" strategy. Without punishment and reprisals, mutant nasty players gain an advantage. That is what is happening here, in the West people are so used to being nice to one another, they are nice to even machines.

  • I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
  • People are not overly bright in many ways. They don't understand that it was a so-called 'self driving car', because they see a human being behind the wheel, assume he's the delivery driver, and that the touchscreen business is just some new time-saving gadget -- and in fact I'd think they'd also be somewhat annoyed that they had to come out to the vehicle to get their pizza, instead of the driver bringing it to the door. If they noticed the follow vehicle, they maybe think that's the guys boss and it's som
  • ... they will remember those of us who were courteous to the AI bots and said things like please and thank you. And those people will be the first ones they eliminate for being inefficient.
  • My favorite is most noticeable when people order fast food, "Can I have..."

    • More than a few times I've seen people try to order something off the menu only to be told that item is out of stock. So asking if you can order something makes some sense. Though I've gotta say I get really annoyed when that kind of thing happens, is it really so difficult to put up a sign saying you're out of some popular item. The worst was a little lunch place that only served 3 main items, one day when I was eating there they were out of chicken but the guy taking orders couldn't be bothered to tell pe

  • is that I can’t properly say thank you“ because sHe does not recognize without activating before and thus does not answer you’re welcome“.
    What I get instead is a hollow, disconnected funny‘ comment without further interaction.
    This just feels very wrong.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @02:40PM (#55916835)
    People applaud at the end of a good movie too, even though nobody who helped make the movie can hear them. (What's more interesting is that I see this behavior in movie theaters, but not when watching at home.)
  • "the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object."

    We do it because we like to think we can make the world appear more friendly to us by projecting human characteristics onto it. It's akin to giving your car a name or saying "well maybe she didn't feel like starting today because she's grumpy".

    It's typically only irrational, less educated people that do this.
  • ... is going to put a huge dent into the porn business. Not many other plots left.

  • I don't know about anyone else, but I've never thanked an ATM when it dispenses cash to me.

    Unlike ATMs, having a pizza delivered by a self-driving car isn't a normal experience today, and customers expect there to be a person there. As far as I know, laws don't yet permit a self-driving car to do something like this without a person present. So I think it was fair that the people were thanking the person, whether they saw him or not.

    UPS delivers packages to my apartment door, and then quickly walks to the n

    • The ATM is merely returning something that already belongs to you, whereas the pizza car is giving you something that didn't not become yours until you took possession of it.

  • by Headw1nd ( 829599 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @03:39PM (#55917329)
    As a Boy Scout many years ago, we were taught when receiving a bladed object from someone, to say 'Thank you" when and only when we had a firm grip on the object, letting the other person know it was safe to let go. In a similar way, for many Americans, "Thank you" signals the end of an interaction. The people are merely informing the car that they had completed the transaction, received the pizza, and had no more need of it anymore. It just do happens that the car isn't capable of making use of that information, but that is likely a temporary condition.
  • This is hardly news. People have been saying "Thank you" and much to computers since Eliza was created in 1964.

  • Now the "pizza pirate" will follow the autonomous delivery vehicle around in order to rob the recipient who has helpfully been lured out of the house. And barefoot no less so probably won't give chase.

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