Toyota Motor Corporation on Monday announced its E-palette business system which chairman Akio Toyoda described as a "mobile showroom as a platform for an e-commerce-on-demand retail experience, a multi purpose moving experience, mobile personal shops, an individual, personalised mobile showroom".
He sees the autonomous, all-electric vehicles with fully reconfigurable interiors forming clusters of On Demand Cities.
Examples shown at the CES technology event here in Las Vegas include food service, mobile casino, shoe repair, retail shops and so on.
"This is just one example of Toyota's vision for auto mobility solutions," Toyoda said.
All EV partners will be able to use their own automated driving technology if they wish or can use their own."We will however include Toyota's own guardian technologies as a safety net," Toyoda said.
"Today you have to travel to the store but e-palette will come to you, businesses can cluster – medical services, say.
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"Just think how good e-pallette would be at Burning Man reconfigured for different services each day!"
Away from a temporary city cluster in the Nevada desert, Toyoda also cited ride sharing, hospital shuttle, lunch delivery, logistics and automatic 'last mile' deliveries, with the final handover to the customer handled by mini autonomous EVs on board which deliver to the customer's home, opening access to the packages using face recognition.
"We believe so much in this concept we are creating an alliance with other companies," said Toyoda. "We believe in flexibility and that an open standard is best for customers."
He said initial partners are Amazon, Didi, Pizza Hutt, Uber and Mazda.
The e-pallette will make its debut at the 2020 Olympic Games.
'Start Your Impossible' is the tagline for Toyota's sponsorship of the Games as well as the associated Special Olympics.
"It's also a mission statement for me personally," said Toyoda.
"I started Nurgburgring driving at the right old age of 51 – many people told me I was crazy – including my father.
"I want to find as many ways as possible to use technology. E-pallette is one example."
He reiterated his previously announced goal to transition Toyota from a car company to a mobility provider.
"The possibilities for what we can build are endless. We can connect customers across the country, the world… the room."
Software is key "but I think the platform will be the backbone of mobility as a service. It will be the background of anything we want to make possible".
Toyota is a well known hardware maker but Toyoda wants it to become as well known for a mobility services platform to manage vehicles and services.
"A mobility service platform, a personal assistant on wheels."
The new platform is also the engine of vehicle car sharing tests Toyota is conducting in Hawaii and San Francisco.
"Much of mobility will be powered by autonomy," thinks Toyoda.
He noted the automaker currently sells 37 electrified vehicles in 90 countries. By 2020, it plans to offer "over 10" BEVs alone.
By 2025 every Lexus will offer electric or electrified options. BEVs or EVs are what "everyone is talking about these days."
Less than 1% of vehicles in the US are BEV today.
"Much needs to be done to incease consumer demand," said Toyoda.
"That is why we are working with the government on infratructure for BEVs."
Toyota ia also working on new solid state battery technology to make the power source smaller and lighter, and "much more affordable – this new form of electrification plus the Toyota Connected platform are key components of future mobility services."