Tribal Pizza Carputer For Snow Crash Deliverator

The Carputer is a smart car for pizza delivery; designed by Tribal Pizza, an online pizzeria delivering in Houston starting in 2008.


(Carputer by Tribal Pizza)

As any savvy Deliverator knows, you need the right car to deliver pies on time. The Tribal Pizza guys started with this spec list:

  • Routing deliveries and giving turn-by-turn directions.
  • Updating the vehicle's location and estimated time to delivery on the main site in near real-time
  • Monitoring vehicle performance, such as MPG, driving characteristics, and maintenance needs
  • Presenting special delivery instructions to the driver
  • Rocking out with XM radio.
Here's the basic description of the hardware and software:

You can see from the Blue Screen of Life that we're running Windows. We use XP Embedded since we have a lot of .NET development experience. The fingerprints on the screen attest to the fact that it's a touchscreen LCD. Carputer5 Most of the parts were purchased from mp3car.com. The XM Universal Tuner in the front was purchased at Best Buy and the wiring and power supply used for development were purchased at Radio Shack.

As it stands, the Carputer boots, runs our custom .NET application, and receives GPS data. In other words, it's alive but not particularly useful yet.


(Tribal Carputer parts)

Tribal Pizza decided to use the 2007 Nissan Versa for the first Deliverator vehicle in their (hopefully) fleet of cars.

Science fiction fans will readily recognize the Carputer as a firstgen Deliverator pizza delivery vehicle from Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash:

The Deliverator's car has enough potential energy packed into its batteries to fire a pound of bacon into the Asteroid Belt. Unlike a bimbo box or a Burb beater, the Deliverator's car unloads that power through gaping, gleaming, polished sphincters...

As he scrunches to a stop, the electromechanical hatch on the flank of his car is already opening to reveal his empty pizza slots, the door clicking and folding back in on itself like the wing of a beetle. The slots are waiting. Waiting for hot pizza.

Each pizza glides into a slot like a circuit board into a computer, clicks into place as the smart box interfaces with the onboard system of the Deliverator's car. The address of the caller has already been inferred from his phone number and poured into the smart box's built-in RAM. From there it is communicated to the car, which computes and projects the optimal route on a heads-up display, a glowing colored map traced out against the windshield so that the Deliverator does not even have to glance down.
(Read more about the Deliverator car and smart pizza boxes)

No word yet on whether or not Tribal Pizza require employees will wear arachnofiber uniforms with sintered armorgel for coolness and protection like the ones in Snow Crash.

I'd like to add that the Tribal Pizza people have a great feature in their business plan. You can design your own favorite pizza combination for $20, and submit it to their website. When people start ordering it, you get $1 per pie.

Jay Grieves, the CEO of Tribal Pizza, described the Carputer system to me this way:

"As far as the actual system, it's a combination of GIS, intelligent scheduling, and GPS. When an order comes in to the central site, it's put in the production location's queue. Within a small time window, production may be rearranged to put orders that are in close proximity next to each other in the queue. These orders would be assigned to the same delivery vehicle. The vehicle plots the delivery locations as way points and the route is calculated."

When I asked him if his Deliverator car had nonferrous bumpers (to forestall magnapooning), he replied

"The bumpers of the Nissan Versa are plastic, so no pooning off the bumper. We will, however, leave large patches of our vehicle's metal body un-adorned in an attempt to encourage magnapooning. Hoverboarding has great promise as a "green commuting solution" and could reduce our carbon footprint enough to justify our use of matter compilers, which use some serious juice."

Read more at the Tribal Pizza blog and the Tribal Pizza website. (Also, I added one more tidbit on upcoming Tribal Pizza features.) Thanks to an anonymous reader who contacted me with a great tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/18/2007)

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