It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s an electric, driverless concept vehicle!
At 2018 CES, Toyota Motor Corp introduced the e-Palette, an electric, driverless, multi-purpose vehicle “designed to meet the demands of future multi-mode transportation and business applications.”
A statement from Toyota said the vehicle could be used for “parcel delivery, ride sharing, or on-the-road e-commerce.” A short video showed the vehicles transporting passengers and goods in a variety of ways, including also handling warehouse-to-store delivery. It also transformed at one point into a mobile hotel room.
“The concept reflects one of Toyota’s visions for Automated Mobility as a Service (Autono-MaaS) applications,” Toyota said in a statement. “It is a fully-automated, next generation battery electric vehicle (BEV) designed to be scalable and customizable for a range of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) businesses.”
Toyota envisions that the vehicles will be come in three sizes, ranging from the length of a small bus to a mailbox-sized one able to ride on sidewalks to support customer package or food delivery.
Launch partners include Amazon, China’s ride-hailing giant DiDi, Mazda, Pizza Hut and Uber, which will collaborate on vehicle planning, application concepts and vehicle verification activities. An open interface and a set of software tools allow partner companies to replace Toyota’s automated driving system and vehicle management technology with their own, if desired.
Bloomberg noted that other major auto makers have also explored driverless pizza delivery, parcel delivery and ride sharing, although not in one vehicle.
Feasibility testing of the e-Palette Concept will be conducted in the early 2020s in various regions, including the U.S., with a goal of providing mobility solutions for the Olympics in Tokyo.
Wrote Darrell Etherington for TechCrunch, “It’s definitely an idealized projection of what’s to come, and things would be much more messy in practice, but it’s definitely something worth pursuing — and a smart strategy for an automaker to adopt in terms of figuring out what comes next, once autonomy and electric vehicle investments change the face of transportation.”
- Toyota Launches New Mobility Ecosystem and Concept Vehicle at 2018 CES – Toyota
- Toyota Signs Amazon, Pizza Hut as Driverless-Delivery Partners – Bloomberg
- Toyota unveils self-driving concept vehicle for rides, deliveries – Reuters
- Toyota’s mobility business shifts into high gear at CES – TechCrunch
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What potential retail applications do you see for vehicles like Toyota’s e-Palette concept? Will multi-purpose vehicles like e-Palette represent the future of travel and distribution?