Toyota Motor Corp. will build an autonomous shuttle called the e-Palette Concept in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the automaker announced at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The e-Palette is a sleek, box-shaped platform with a flat floor and high roof. It will be produced in three different lengths ranging from 13 feet to 23 feet.
“E-Palette is one example of Toyota’s vision for autonomous business applications,” said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota. “It’s an open, flexible platform that can be easily adapted to a range of uses.”
The interior of the e-Palette Concept is spacious to allow for a range of uses such as ride-hailing, on-demand retail and delivery. Mobile hotel rooms could be another application. Each vehicle will be purpose-built depending on its use.
Toyota created an e-Palette Alliance with launch partners such as Amazon, DiDi, Pizza Hut, Uber and Mazda. The companies will collaborate on vehicle planning and application concepts.
A large screen behind Toyoda played a video rendering of a customer walking into an e-Palette mobile shoe store. After selecting a pair from the wall of choices, the figure walked out of the shuttle and paid wirelessly for the purchase.
“Today you have to travel to the store,” Toyoda said. “In the future, with e-Palette, the store will come to you.”
The e-Palette uses an open interface that allows customers to install their preferred automated driving system and vehicle management technology.
The company’s Mobility Service Platform will host the suite of services and build an ecosystem of business users.
Toyota hopes to use the e-Palette during and Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Other mobility technologies may be available as well.
It also plans to test the e-Palette Concept in the U.S. and other countries in the early 2020s.
Toyota is also working to develop solid-state battery technology, Toyoda said. Solid-state batteries develop power from a solid energy source rather than the liquid in current lithium-ion batteries.
The technology promises to make batteries smaller, lighter and more affordable.