Launch partners include Amazon, DiDi, Mazda, Pizza Hut and Uber
Imagine a world in which generic boxes on wheels do all the transporting part, especially within the city, through a flexible platform suitable for ride sharing, logistic deliveries and all sorts of other transport needs. That's Toyota's vision, anyway.
Unveiled at CES 2018, the announced e-Palette Alliance is basically a mobility service package combined with a flexible, purpose-built vehicle that will be offered to partners as a platform for developing their own custom vehicles or interiors. Named the e-Palette Concept Vehicle, it's a fully-automated battery electric vehicle (BEV) designed to be scalable and customizable for a range of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) businesses, says Toyota, and this means only one thing: you get the same platform for a variety of transport functions.
Toyota's strategy is to provide the basic platform on which partner companies can install their own automated driving systems and vehicle management technologies, customize its interior or develop entirely new vehicles of their own. It's a fresh approach to next-gen mobility, even if the outcome would be a little too bland for our taste, with thousands of autonomous boxy cars filling the streets. Lots of companies were interested, though.
The e-Palette Alliance service provider partners, including Amazon, DiDi, Pizza Hut, and Uber will explore various applications of the e-Palette Concept and the MSPF to support their existing business needs. DiDi, Mazda and Uber will also join as technology partners.
The vehicle has an open interior design layout that can be customized and fitted with purpose-built amenities according to the partner's needs. The same platform can be used for ridesharing, mobile e-commerce, logistics or various other services, as imagined in Toyota's video. The company would also provide security solutions to make sure its cars are not hacked.
Toyota plans to offer the e-Palette Concept in three sizes, from 4 meters to 7 meters-long, but all the vehicles will maximize space through a boxy design and a flat platform. Toyota's Mobile Services Platform (MSPF) will also gather vehicle information through a global communication platform and will offer a variety of finance options, as well as high-level maintenance in cooperation with Toyota dealers. The API required by service providers, like vehicle state and dynamic management, can be viewed on the MSPF.
It's a brave new world out there, and only the near future will show us if Toyota's mobility vision will get traction. Meanwhile, please tell us what you think: would you want to be a part of this one-box-fits-all future?