Self-driving buses have been in circulation for some time now. Toyota has just revealed their own version of one called the e-Palette. This is not your run of the mill self-driving bus but aims to be more than just that and wishes to provide a mobile platform for e-commerce, ridesharing, and medical services as a start.
The initiative was unveiled by Toyota’s president Akio Toyoda at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as an attempt to get ahead of the rivals that are offering single-use autonomous transporters. “In the future, the store will come to you,” he said, revealing the firm is already working with Amazon, Uber, Pizza Hut and China-based Didi.
The e-Palette vehicle has a boxy electric-powered minibus design and it is set to handle deliveries. It can even bring retail services to the customers in addition to being used for ridesharing. “It is a flexible platform that can be adapted to a range of services,” Toyoda said, including ridesharing, retail, medical services or entertainment.
The demonstration showed that the vehicle could not only deliver packages but allowed the customers to try on apparel and shoes. This is a part of an effort to transform Toyota from an automaker to a multifaceted mobility company as explained by the president.
The project is set to be deployed somewhere at the beginning of the next decade and their partners include Amazon, Pizza Hit, Uber, and China-based Didi for now. Mazda, the rivals of Toyota will also be participating in the development and hope to showcase the technology at the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
Toyota has not been very forthcoming about the idea of autonomous vehicles but it is now starting to change and has invested $1 billion to develop the technology. The timeline for testing self-driving cars is set around 2020.
“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,” said Toyota President Akio Toyoda in a statement.
This is good to see that the automobile giants like Toyota are also warming up to the concept of electric and autonomous cars and it will definitely help in paving the way for the future.
You can watch the video here: