Toyota provided a glimpse into the future of mobility with the e-Palette concept, which made its debut at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show on Monday.
The study imagines a future where Toyota merely manufactures the hardware and other companies provide the software to operate the vehicle.
The automaker also announced the e-Palette Alliance alongside the physical concept. The Alliance encompasses a host of launch partners, including Pizza Hut, Amazon, Mazda, and Uber, which will all leverage Toyota’s proprietary Mobility Services Platform (MSPF). The goal is to develop the right mobility services for the future alongside the appropriate vehicle.
As mentioned, that vehicle is the e-Palette. Toyota said the concept boasts an open interior ripe for customization. For example, the automaker imagines the concept vehicle as a package delivery van, a ride-sharing vehicle, and a mobile e-commerce vehicle.
The open interior design allows for purpose-built interiors to suit each of the mobility needs specifically. Thus, the e-Palette can shift from one service to the other and companies can ultimately share the platform. Pizza delivery vehicle by day, Uber ride-sharing vehicle by night.
Additionally, the automaker envisions the concept will come in three sizes to meet the needs of all businesses in the budding world of mobility services.
Various companies would take delivery of the e-Palette and provide their own self-driving-car software, while Toyota's "Guardian" technology works to ensure proper operation. The same MSPF can also provide over-the-air updates for self-driving systems.
The concept isn't quite a reality yet, however. The automaker's president and namesake, Akio Toyoda, said the e-Palette concept and Alliance is a stepping stone for a new business model that balances traditional vehicle sales and new mobility services. Toyota hopes to conduct the first vehicle tests in the early 2020s and potentially provide mobility solutions for athletes competing in the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.