Toyota's strategy is to build multi-purpose vehicles and become a "mobility company" instead of simply a auto manufacturer.
Toyota envisions these serving a variety of functions, from typical mobility services like ride-sharing and carpooling, to less-typical purposes like serving as mobile office and retail space, medical clinics, hotel rooms, and more.
At a separate presentation at CES - formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show - NVIDIA CEO Benson Huang said that by removing the driver from the vehicle ride-sharing services will be able to provide mobility at a cost less than that of owning and operating a personal vehicle. He unveiled e-Palette, Toyota's autonomous concept vehicle, as proof of a new business landscape just over the horizon. It is an upright, low-ground-clearance, multi-use vehicle designed for urban environments. Each e-Palette is also created to be shared between businesses and to quickly transition between applications.
A lot of what we've seen from other automakers are perhaps better classified as side bets; case in point, Volkswagen's chief executive expressed skepticism about the extent of the potential of mobility services on stage with Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang yesterday, despite the fact that VW has its own mobility sub-brand, Moia. Toyota says those customers include Amazon, DiDi, Pizza Hut, Mazda and Uber, all of which will "collaborate on vehicle planning, application concepts and vehicle verification activities".
The world's second-biggest carmaker said it plans to begin testing the e‐Palette concept vehicle in various regions, including the United States, in the early 2020s.
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When commercialized, the e-Palette type of vehicle is expected to offer "level 4" autonomous driving capability, which is called by the industry "high automation".
This is the first time the Toyota president has appeared in a CES-related event and voiced his vision for the company's future.
In the future, you won't go to shops; instead, shops will come to you. As a key sponsor Toyota is planning to show off not only its conventional vehicles but futuristic concepts that include a drone-like flying auto.
The automaker said the e-Palette will serve as the main vehicle in its e-Palette Alliance. In one, an e-Palette delivery truck drops off a package with help from a small robot that zips out to drop it at the customer's front door.
Toyota is by no means the only automaker exploring such concepts.