Toyota unveils a new blueprint for autonomous EVs for mass transit and business, with multi-functional e-Palette Concept vehicle.
The combination of new electrification platforms and connected technologies means a raft of new transport and commercial ideas are now being explored, by start-ups and major automakers alike. And some, like Toyota’s latest proposal unveiled at CES this week, are pushing the envelope more than others.
Yesterday Toyota president Akio Toyoda announced that the company would create a new “mobility business alliance”, supported by another brand-new vehicle: the e-Palette Concept. With flexibility and autonomy being its main drivers, the e-Palette is both a transport solution and a mobile commercial unit.
in a nutshell, the e-Palette is a fully-automated battery electric vehicle, designed to be scalable and adaptable to just about whatever application the user requires. In an accompanying launch video explaining the concept, one vehicle transforms from a ride-sharing mass transit bus, to a dedicated hospital shuttle for the elderly or users with low personal mobility, to a delivery truck and back to a ride-share.
Yet Toyota also believes that with the changing nature of commerce, retail units and businesses themselves may benefit from being mobile. Examples provided include a shoe shop, restaurant, food delivery, a hotel and a meeting space – and indeed, Toyota has designed the box-like vehicle with a fairly blank canvas with a view to incorporating “ride sharing specifications, hotel room specifications and retail shopping specifications.”
Toyota envisions that the e-Palette Concept will be made available in three sizes, depending on the application. You can see more in the explanatory video below.
It is unquestionably innovative, but to what extent consumers and businesses see a future in mobile shops (outside of established businesses like grocers or fast-food trucks) is debatable. Nevertheless, Toyota boasts launch partners that include Amazon, DiDi, Mazda, Pizza Hut and Uber, all of whom are to collaborate on vehicle planning, application concepts and vehicle verification.
The purpose-built vehicle will be based on the company’s Mobility Services Platform (MSPF), as well as a number of partnerships supporting hardware and software.
In the spirit of partnerships, Toyota will also allow collaborators to install their own automated driving system and vehicle management technology. Technology providers, it says, can receive open Application Programming Interface (API) such as vehicle state and vehicle control, necessary for development of automated driving systems (automated driving control software and cameras/sensors, etc.).albeit supported by Toyota’s own Guardian technology “as a safety net” against inappropriate operation.
Neither is this futuristic blueprint too far away. Toyota says it plans to conduct feasibility testing of the e-Palette Concept in various regions, including the US, in the early 2020s. It also hopes to contribute to the success of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, suggesting we could see something very similar to the e-Palette in operation around the event.