Toyota Motor Corp. plans to commercialize an autonomous shipping container-like vehicle within a few years that it says could double as a mobile store or roving office.
The e-Palette will leverage Toyota’s Global Mobility Services Platform to develop advanced vehicle and related mobility services for business applications. Its concept vehicle will be fully autonomous, battery-electric driven with connected technologies. The company envisions the vehicle being adapted to a wide range of uses that include ride sharing, logistics and mobile shops.
The e-Palette is a largely transparent, driverless oblong carriage on wheels that’s can accommodate up to 20 passengers, with seats that fold up and allow the space to be re-purposed.
The e-Palette concept was first announced at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show by Toyota President Akio Toyoda, who said it is a symbol of how he is trying to transform the world’s second-largest automaker into a mobility company. At that time, an e-Palette Alliance also included launch partners Amazon, DiDi, Mazda, Pizza Hut and Uber.
In late 2020, Toyota said it plans to make the e-Palette commercially viable within a few years. It was not clear whether other Alliance partners are still onboard.
Toyota had planned to showcase the e-Palette at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic games, but with that event’s postponement, the company said the inquiries from around the world prompted it to continue development. An early site for public demo of the e-Palette may come in a “prototype city” that Toyota is involved in building at the base of Mt. Fuji.
Yamamoto said the company has continued to develop the vehicles, sensing a growing demand for them as the pandemic heightens people’s desire to avoid close contact with others and have services and goods come to them.