Partners include Amazon, Uber, Pizza Hut and China’s DiDi.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the carmaker’s founder, debuted the e-Palette vehicle and e-Palette Alliance to a packed crowd at CES 2018 in Las Vegas on Monday. Along with eventually slotting future versions of the concept electric vehicle, which can be configured for deliveries, mobile stores, ridesharing or a rolling office, alliance partners will work with Toyota’s Mobility Services Platform to create a range of connected mobility solutions.
Automakers are beginning to confront a future where fewer individuals own vehicles and instead rely more on carsharing and ride services. Autonomous ride services are expected to make those options even more appealing. Toyota must move into the mobility business to guarantee its future.
“Our competitors no longer just make cars," Toyoda told the crowd. "Companies like Google, Apple, and even Facebook, are what I think about at night. After all, we didn't start out by making cars either,” he said, a nod to the company’s start as a maker of automated weaving looms. “Around the world, clearly Toyota is a well-known maker of reliable automobiles. We hope to become just as well known for the mobility service company we've built.”
As part of the project, Toyota would supply vehicles for use by its partners who could either use all the software and hardware the company creates to enable autonomous driving, or use it as a base on which they add their own technology. The concept vehicle is a futuristic rectangular box on wheels with vertical doors on the side to allow passengers to enter and exit without having to bend over. Companies including Navya, a French developer of autonomous shuttles, has deployed a similar vehicle for public rides in Las Vegas.
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