Toyota has launched a new concept car that incorporates fully autonomous technology in a platform designed specifically for ride sharing and ride-hailing. The new ‘e-Palette’ concept car resembles a small shuttle, with a modular interior that can be changed depending on whether it’s used for ride-hailing, small cargo transport and on-demand delivery, or any other mobility uses.
The e-Palette is intended to begin testing for potential market feasibility in the U.S. in the early 2020s, and will also hopefully be in use at the Tokyo Games in 2020, according to the carmaker. It includes Toyota’s autonomous driving software and is a fully electric battery vehicle.
In terms of design, in addition to the modular interior, the e-Palette features different length and sizes depending on its needs (so large ones for multi-passenger vehicles, and small for pizza delivery for instance). The inside has no permanent columns or structural barriers, and some potential purposes for the vehicle extend to things like mobile hotel rooms.
The car also has APIs built in that can feed data from sensors and interior systems, as well as receive on-the-fly updates over the air. That allows it to be responsive to changing needs and consumer behavior while on the road, and essentially allows it to be built out to the particular specifications of any particular commercial user.
Toyota’s bet here on a multipurpose mobility vehicle are part of its overall strategy to transform into a full-featured “mobility company,” something that Toyota President Akio Toyoda made a point to outline in detail on stage at CES. Toyoda said that they now see themselves in competition with Apple, Google, Facebook and others, hence the decision to make these general business changes.
The vehicle was announced alongside new partners Toyota has enlisted to build out its mobility services ecosystem, including Pizza Hut, Amazon, Uber, Didi and more.