If you want a deep glimpse into what the future might look like on our roads, Toyota's new e-Palette concept vehicle and the underpinning Toyota Global Mobility Services Platform (MSPF) are a good place to start. The e-Palette concept was shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for the first time today.
Like many industries ravaged by digital technologies and connectivity, the traditional role of the car manufacturer is about to go the same way as the blacksmith, book store, music shop and travel agency. Not long ago, automakers made cars, but they are now part of the much larger mobility industry and if they don't stay ahead of the dramatic changes underway, they risk becoming irrelevant.
All of the key trends in the mobility industry accelerated in 2017: autonomous driving, shared mobility, connectivity and electrification, and all are addressed in Toyota's newly announced e-Palette Alliance, which will leverage Toyota's Mobility Services Platform to offer a suite of solutions designed to make it easy to create a purpose-built vehicle for almost any task.
From mobile "think-tanks" to hotels on wheels, the number of real world e-Palette examples shown in Las Vegas today are as fascinating in their diversity as the launch business alliance partners: online shopping giant Amazon, DiDi (a major Chinese ride-sharing company with 450 million users in 400 cities), Mazda, Pizza Hut and Uber.
As the e-Palette concept stands right now, it is a fully-automated, battery electric vehicle (BEV). Toyota's automated driving technologies are optional, as the e-Palette comes with an open vehicle control interface and a set of software tools to enable partner companies to easily install their own automated driving system and vehicle management technology.
In many ways, you can think of the e-Palette as the computer for which you can write your own software at the same time as using Toyota's "network." It's designed as an ecosystem for mobility-powered businesses, including leasing, insurance, fleet management and big data.
Hence the e-Palette comes with a complete plug-and-play ecosystem with which to develop a mobility business, which no doubt appeals to Amazon and Pizza Hut whose core business is not automaking, leasing, insurance or fleet management.
Beyond the flexible framework and usage optimization, Toyota plans for the e-Palette to be made in three sizes with lengths varying from 4 to 7 meters (13 to 23 ft). The model shown at CES this week is 4.8 m (15.7 ft) long, 2 m (6.5 ft) wide and 2.25 m (7.4 ft) high.
Skip to the 15-minute mark of the video below to see the e-Palette concept introduced at CES.
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