Toyota's autonomous pod to transport athletes around Tokyo 2020 Olympics
The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo look set to be a showcase for technology as well as human sporting achievement. Earlier this year, we got a look at the Games medals made using scrap metal recovered from electronic waste, and Toyota revealed its full line-up of robots that would be assisting the public and staff. Now the company has confirmed that its e-Palette people mover will be transporting athletes throughout the Olympic and Paralympic villages.
We first got a glimpse of the battery-electric e-Palette in conceptual form at CES 2018, with plans to build it in three sizes. Now Toyota is supplying 20 special edition models for the 2020 Olympic Games to ferry athletes and support staff around loops of the Olympic and Paralympic villages.
"Throughout the development process, athletes, especially Paralympians, helped us to better understand how we could adapt and upgrade the e-Palette to better meet the need for simple, convenient and comfortable mobility," said development lead Takahiro Muta.
This special version will sport bench and lift-up seating inside, so that there's room for up to four wheelchair users and seven standing passengers at a time, and feature large sliding doors, low floors and electric ramps. The floor, trim, seats and more have contrasting colors to help those with color blindness.
The e-Palettes will have a safety operator aboard, but the vehicles will be controlled by an automated driving system that makes use of cameras and LiDAR, 3D mapping and control software so they can trundle along at up to 19 km/h (12 mph) with Level 4 autonomy.
Lights to the front and rear provide visual clues as to the operational state of the vehicle – such as white double arcs for normal running, upper white arcs to give way to pedestrians and lower red arcs when the vehicle is charging or otherwise not in use. Per charge range is reported to be about 150 km (just over 90 mi).
The Tokyo 2020 e-Palettes will be revealed at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show later this month. Development on the vehicle as a future "Mobility-as-a-Service" continues.