Toyota's 'e-Palette' is a weird, self-driving, modular store-on-wheels

Posted January 09, 2018

Toyota is bidding to become a major player in driverless technology by producing a new autonomous vehicle platform that can be configured by companies it partners with.

The vehicle will come in three sizes and is created to be used for a variety of purposes, including freight and package delivery, ride-sharing, and mobile offices and storefronts.

Toyota seems poised to embrace mobility services as a core part of its overall business, rather than an offshoot or subsidiary concern, based on Toyoda's comments and the vision of the future the company revealed when detailing how its new e-Palette dedicated mobility services vehicle and industry alliance will work. He unveiled e-Palette, Toyota's autonomous concept vehicle, as proof of a new business landscape just over the horizon.

The concept imagines a flexible vehicle platform able to serve as a mobile hotel, delivery truck, wheeled office and more.

Amazon or Pizza Hut may one day use the e-Palette for automated deliveries, while Uber envision autonomous ride sharing.

Toyota Taps Amazon to Join Driverless Delivery Vehicle Alliance

Toyota intends to test the e-Palette in a few locales, incorporating the United States in the mid 2020s. Each e-Palette is also created to be shared between businesses and to quickly transition between applications. It's basically a self-driving van that converts into a shuttle bus, a delivery auto, or even a store on wheels, and Toyota envisions it in a community near you in the years to come. Other mobility technologies may be available as well. Each vehicle will be purpose-built depending on its use. Hail the roaming pizza oven, complete with (prisoner?) chef.

Toyota has already formed alliances with Mazda, Amazon and Pizza Hut, as well as ride-hailing app companies Uber and Didi.

They'll collaborate with Toyota on things like vehicle planning, application concepts, and vehicle verification activities. It likewise plans to be at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. In fact, the e-Palettes have built-in APIs that ingest sensor data and receive over-the-air updates like smartphones.

Akio Toyoda himself introduced the very upright, not-cross-wind-friendly e-Palette, which can be used for any number of portable business needs. "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".

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