Toyota has outlined a new vehicle ecosystem that could change the way we use roads and think of how transportation can work, with business transactions likely to change as autonomous vehicles begin to bring services to consumers.
The Japanese brand revealed its plan with the e-Palette Concept at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that points toward a flexible vehicle platform able to serve as a mobile hotel, delivery truck, wheeled office and more.
And though Toyota remains "committed to making even better cars," according to Toyota president Akio Toyoda, he also says the brand needs to move into new areas in line with future transport needs.
“We are developing mobility solutions to help everyone enjoy their lives, and we are doing our part to create an ever-better society for the next 100 years and beyond,” he says.
“This announcement marks a major step forward in our evolution towards sustainable mobility, demonstrating our continued expansion beyond traditional cars and trucks to the creation of new values including services for customers.”
Those needs could be met by a scalable family of electric vehicles for urban centres. Known as the e-Pallette Alliance, the boxy, autonomous machines will use a Toyota-developed mobility services platform to “create a broad-based ecosystem of hardware and software support designed to help a range of companies utilize advanced mobility technology”.
A number of brands including Uber, Pizza Hut and Amazon have already signed on as launch partners with Toyota to help shape the vehicles and how they will work.
One example given by the car maker surrounds a mobile shoe store. Customers could tell a company such as Amazon that they want to buy size nine sneakers, and have a driverless pod bring around a few different pairs to try on.
People in need of a quick nap could send for a mobile hotel, autonomous food trucks could allow workers to cook on the go and ride-sharing vehicles could work as a school bus, medical transport and nightclub taxi on the same day.
Toyota plans to start testing the system in the US in the early 2020s, after introducing similar mobility systems at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
Watch the e-Palette in action below:
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