Toyota reveals e-Palette concept, previews its future mobility services

Toyota reveals e-Palette concept, previews its future mobility services

Toyota has already formed alliances with Mazda, Amazon and Pizza Hut, as well as ride-hailing app companies Uber and Didi. Toyota said the concept can be fitted with purpose-built interiors that allow the e-Palette to shift duties seamlessly.

Think of the concept vehicle Toyota unveiled at CES Monday as something of a blank canvas.

The two companies are now starting on plans to boost the current driver/delivery ecosystem by jointly testing dual communication tech early this year in Pizza Hut delivery vehicles to capture data on driver patterns and behaviors. However, given the low floor and uninterrupted interior space, the automaker says that it could really build the vehicle to goal, whether that was for moving cargo, making deliveries, or as a ride-sharing cab.

In theory, partners would be able to buy the autonomous e-Palette vehicle with the complete chauffeur technology, or they could opt to use their own automated driving system.

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.

The e-Palette is still only an idea. Proponents contend the technology will reduce congestion and improve highway safety, among other things.

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Indeed, ride-sharing services like Uber are among those driving the development of self-driving vehicles, said Gil Pratt, the head of the Toyota Research Institute, and the overseer of the automaker's autonomous program. Among other things, it is exploring ways to use a vehicle like the e-Palette as an unmanned pizza delivery vehicle, or to deliver products for online services like Amazon.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda told CES conference attendees: "In the future, the store will come to you".

Toyota e-Palette vehicle control interface.

Toyota intends to make the vehicle available in three sizes. The Japanese auto giant says it hopes to debut its e-Palette project at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. If that's the case, it's hard to see how Toyota's mobility concept will have much application outside self-contained environments like college campuses or retirement communities.

Pizza Hut and Toyota are working toward potential deployment in 2019.

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