Toyota's boxy e-Palette may be the shareable future of transport

Jay Jacobs
January 9, 2018

The team behind the e-Palette celebrates the debut of the new vehicle at CES. The e-Palette concept is centered around automated vehicles that can be customized to serve a wide variety of purposes.

Toyota, the biggest automaker maker in the world, announced an ambitious plan today to tackle mobility and delivery services in the age of autonomous cars.

Toyota is calling them "e-Palettes" and describes them as "fully-automated, next generation battery electric vehicle [s] created to be scalable and customizable for a range of Mobility as a Service businesses". That way, partners will be able to install their own choice of automated driving system and vehicle management technology.

They'll collaborate with Toyota on things like vehicle planning, application concepts, and vehicle verification activities. It's definitely an idealized projection of what's to come, and things would e 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.

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The company's Mobility Service Platform will host the suite of services and build an ecosystem of business users. The big reveal included simulated animation of the auto operating in a variety of different capacities, including training multiple together in convoys of urban light-duty transport trucks, picking up as four passengers for shared transit, or just one for a mobile office, acting as a hotel and even delivering food, pizza and packages without anyone on board.

It's not clear whether Toyota actually plans to build these hilariously weird-looking vehicles, but it has struck partnerships with a handful of major companies to drive home the seriousness of this project.

Toyota has created "guardian" software that can take over should any issues arise, to act as a safety net for each brand's own system. Most vehicle companies with short- to medium-term plans to launch self-driving cars are targeting something other than the traditional individual ownership or lease model: cab services, for example, whether in a closed ecosystem like a retirement community or business campus, or more broadly.

Don't expect to see these autonomous EVs plying the city streets any time soon, mind. A version is also expected to make an appearance at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Toyota said the concept can be fitted with purpose-built interiors that allow the e-Palette to shift duties seamlessly.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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