For the past few years, we have seen many automakers debut concepts that tell how they see the future of the automobile industry. On its part, Toyota sees a depressingly ugly future of automobiles aesthetically as evidenced by the automaker’s latest concept (trust Toyota to always focus on function over form). At this year’s Consumer Electric Show in Las Vegas, Toyota unveiled a boxy looking vehicle that it calls “e-Palette”. The Toyota e-Palette Concept is actually like a box on wheels; it’s a tall, rectangular vehicle that is meant to haul people and goods around busy cities. Toyota believes these types of automobiles will work best in the mobility-service economy of the future. You might be quick to shun this concept but Toyota is very serious and has in fact partnered with a number of international companies in the service industry such as Amazon, Mazda, Didi Chuxing and Pizza Hut to help make this idea a reality.
Toyota e-Palette Concept Specs
The Toyota e-Palette Concept is fully electric like almost every other concept that debuts these days; it seems all automakers are convinced that the future of automobiles lies in fully electric drivetrains and autonomous driving. Toyota says the e-Palette is very flexible. The automaker proposes three sizes for the model ranging from 4-7 meters (13-23 feet) to suit different uses. The concept that Toyota showcased at CES had a length of 15.7 feet, a width of 6.5 feet and was 7.4 feet tall. Due to the boxy shape, the Concept is very spacious inside which means the models will accommodate several passengers and lots of cargo. In addition to these traditional uses, Toyota envisions the models as mobile hotel rooms as well as retail spaces.
The e-Palette leverages Toyota’s Mobility Services Platform (MSPF); the MSPF is a framework that supports an array of connected applications. The platform enables the e-Palette to offer an array of solutions that help clients make a purpose-built vehicle for their unique needs. Working with partners according to Toyota will help create a business-like ecosystem around the model. Partnering companies have the freedom to create their own hardware and software to suit their specific needs.
The e-Palette also features an open control interface with supporting software that enables partner companies to set up their individual autonomous driving systems as well as vehicle management technology. Upon installation of a partner company’s autonomous driving system, Toyota’s Guardian technology acts in the background to ensure the e-Palette is in good condition. This partnership would enable the partnering companies to share data as every vehicle would be sending information to Toyota’s Big Data Center; from this center, clients can monitor the condition of the vehicle, schedule service with Toyota’s dealers or handle payments. This is possible because each e-Palette model has a Data Communication Module (DCM) that is linked with the Toyota’s Big Data Center.
Toyota hopes to launch production models of the e-Palette Concept by 2020 with Tokyo the first city to get the models just before the 2020 Olympics. Before that, the automaker will perform feasibility studies in particular regions including the U.S.